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Nature made accessible

August 31, 2015

Easter Seals camper takes a motorized Parks Explorer out for a ride.

As a Mechanical Engineering Technology student at SAIT, SWET/ARIS researcher Timothy Huynh's capstone project was to develop a motorized off-road vehicle. With the purpose of making nature more accessible to those with special needs, he and classmates Ellie May Rosario, Nathan Lenner and Jose Joaquin came up with a solution.

The project was inspired by Christian Bagg, an inclusion and outreach programmer with Alberta Parks, who has been in a wheelchair for 20 years since a life-changing snowboarding accident. Bagg developed the original, manual Parks Explorer bicycle/wheelchair hybrid. In search of a motorized version, he sought out a research partnership with SAIT. The re-designed Parks Explorer was completed in April 2015 and is now in use at Easter Seals Camp Horizon, which hosts over 1,200 individuals with special needs every year.

"We had a working frame from Christian, but the problem was that it was a hand-crank system. Individuals with decreased levels of strength would have issues using it. Christian wanted a version that was easier to use."

Timothy Huynh
ARIS researcher

To create the prototype, Huynh and his classmates re-made the frame, installed a motor and purchased bicycle parts. Funding for the $8,000 project came from Alberta Parks and ARIS's Innovative Student Project Fund.

"Vivian was one of the campers who got to ride the prototype when our group went to Easter Seals Camp Horizon. She never got out of the bike the whole time we were there, and couldn't stop smiling. It's being put to good use."

Timothy Huynh
ARIS researcher
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