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Ben Heck creates hands-free wheelchair attachment for expectant father

Brian Heater
August 20, 2012
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Ben Heck may have cut his teeth on hacked gaming consoles, but these days, the modder-turned-show-host has turned a good deal of his focus to projects aimed at improving accessibility and mobility for the disabled. The latest episode of the Ben Heck Show offers up the perfect example of this noble pursuit, built when an expectant father came to him requesting a wheelchair that could be controlled while caring for his newborn. Heck designed a motor assembly add-on for Josh Benhart's chair with a foot-controlled joystick that lives under a 3D printed dome. Given a short amount of lead, Heck, sadly, wasn't able to complete the project in time, though you can check out his progress in the video embedded after the break.

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Ben Heck's Wheelchair Add-On Motor Assembly Allows Hands-Free Mobility for Expectant Father on element14's "The Ben Heck Show"

element14, the first collaborative engineering community and electronics store for design engineers and technology enthusiasts, and modding guru Ben Heck, help a wheelchair-bound expectant father prepare for the arrival of his child in the latest episode of "The Ben Heck Show." By designing a motor assembly mod that easily attaches to a wheelchair, Ben increases functionality and hands-free mobility for element14 community member Josh Benhart so he can safely carry his newborn while getting around the house.

"While I'm not a parent myself, I understand the immeasurable bond between a parent and child. I couldn't resist helping an excited father-to-be improve mobility while in his wheelchair, allowing for him to take care of his baby and spend as much one-on-one time as possible," said Ben. "With such significance behind this project, I definitely pulled out all the stops to create the ultimate, safe and mobile, hands-free chair."

To create the tank-like motorized control mechanism and foot-controlled joystick, Ben uses an H-bridge DC motor driver and a few MOSFET transistors to rig the components together and ultimately control motor speed and chair directionality. Ben connects Josh's wheelchair to the add-on motor assembly by leveraging the weight of the chair itself and the front tine that sits on the footrest, completing the perfect mobile accessory for the dad-to-be.

"The element14 community has more than 100,000 members who collaborate on innovative design concepts, inspiring many creative and useful projects," said Kevin Yapp, chief of strategy and marketing, Premier Farnell. "This episode is a perfect example as Josh's project suggestion allowed Ben to take engineering to the next level, giving Josh the ability to hold his child without decreasing mobility."

Fans of the show are invited to join the discussion online at element14 to learn more about the hands-free wheelchair featured on this episode, as well as to send Ben a challenge or project suggestion for a future episode. In addition, the Ben Heck bobblehead contest continues, giving viewers a chance to win show t-shirts and the grand prize bobblehead.

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