Over 20 years ago, Hope Haven International Ministries tasked senior Dordt Engineering students with designing a pediatric wheelchair. Out of that research and hard work came the KidChair, a wheelchair model utilized in HHIM wheelchair distributions for more than two decades and still today. At the time of the original design, the model could be assembled and shipped for around $100. Throughout the years, the KidChair has proved a sturdy and versatile wheelchair for recipients in developing countries. However, helpful critiques were compiled over the years on how to take the design to the next level. That meant incorporating a tilt mechanism, better footrest, and a full computer aided design (CAD) model of the wheelchair.
Two years ago, Hope Haven reengaged with a new generation of Dordt Engineering students to see if they were up for the challenge of implementing these design changes. Ben Saarloos, Engineering Instructor / Lab Systems Engineer, presented the project as one of the 63 senior engineering project options for students. Ultimately, the KidChair project was selected and today, eight students are working on the project. Some of the students involved in the project even traveled to Guatemala last year to see firsthand what a wheelchair distribution is like, and witness the process of custom fitting a recipient based on their individual needs. All of the participating students visited the South Dakota State Penitentiary to meet with inmates and observe the HHIM wheelchair manufacturing process. Both experiences have assisted the students in honing their design. We are thankful to the Dordt students who have worked on this project – their diligent design will impact the lives of people in need for years to come!