i have a dream…

Well I have this dream for some years now.  It’s not that I haven’t done anything about it, it’s just that there is a limit to my skills and knowledge and an even more finite limit to my finances.

Some years ago I trawled the internet studying all the LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotic Technology geniuses to see who I felt was the best in the world.

My intention… to see if by combining LEGO Robotic Technology with lightweight electric cars we could develop light weight, affordable and safe mobility devices which could not only ‘follow lines’ and ‘avoid obstacles’ they could localize themselves in known environments providing safe passage for users like Mac who have significant vision and mobility issues to contend with.

I tracked down Daniele Benedetelli, an Italian Automation Engineering Masters Graduate who is, not only a robotics legend, but also a musical genius… therein solving my personal shortcomings as I don’t believe Danny has a limit to his skills and knowledge.

He was enthusiastic about the project and despite neither of us having any money to ‘pursue it full time’ we have been collaborating (time permitting) ever since.

Here is an application Danny has submitted for our project to Campus Party Europe, hoping to gain the support needed for development.

It is nice to have a shared vision of lightweight, affordable, smart wheelchairs for EVERYONE with someone who doesn’t even come from the disability sector.

I abhor the idea all the therapists and medicos involved in the lives of our children believe ‘learned immobility’ is acceptable.  I resent all these organisations who receive money because OUR children have disabilities think it is OK to compromise their lives.

I will keep chasing this dream because one day this might mean at the very least:


  • Mac can move himself around/between classrooms – further reducing the need for ‘teachers aide/personal attendant’ support.
  • Mac can transport himself around the school either by following specific coloured lines, algorithmically mapped safe passage or ‘free wheeling’ with obstacle avoidance.
  • Mac can deliver message to the office, collect items required by the teacher or run errands just as the other students do.
  • Mac can go where he wants and be with who ever he choses during break time.


  • I can ‘call Mac for dinner’  and he can come (or not) of his own volition,
  • I can send Mac out to round up the chooks to put them to bed for the night, feed the dog or close the gate.
  • Mac can leave and enter any room in the house whenever he wants to.
  • Mac could decide to ‘pop’ up the hill to visit his Grandparents or his cousins… all by himself.
  • Mac would have independent mobility that is inexpensive and really “smart”.

It is certainly worth the challenge – for all kids, not just Mac.


Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad

16 responses to “i have a dream…

  1. Yes!

    There’s an Extreme Sports project on Scribd which has the same idea. (or at least some of the same missions/actions).

    Like Daniele, the designer is a design/architecture man with some background.

    Adam Silverstein’s Extreme Wheelchair Process Book

    And I don’t think that all therapists and medicos think that “learnt immobility” is acceptable.

    Conductive Education is probably the other extreme, in which few people use a mobility device for assistance at all.

    And there’s also a guy from Melbourne (actually he did a fellowship in Gippsland) who could probably help. He designed a Lego machine which could fold Japanese origami.

  2. Chris

    I believe there are such systems already in use. there is a school local to me that uses a track of some description
    You can see it on the facilities page in the cafe video heading out thru’ the double blue doors
    Chris x

  3. Gina

    Thanks Chris and Adelaide. The big goal for myself and Danny is to get something <$1000 cost – that takes it into a whole new realm compared to the systems out there for $25K and over. It will likely have to stay a 'toy' initially but may progress from there.
    There is a SMART chair available in the UK in a number of schools – for us too expensive (at least $50K AUD) and too heavy for my liking – certainly had line following – can't remember about obstacle avoidance. That might be what they have at that school – looks similar.
    A Prof. in Melbourne went someway to developing one – targeted at aged care – no support because the facilities didn't want their 'residents' having that much independence – ugh.

  4. That last is a big UGH from this corner too.

    Many who are aged in the community might use a scooter. And we know how they have come down in size and price over 20 years.

  5. Wow, good luck to Daniele with his application and to both of you with the project as a whole. Please keep me up to date. The market for these if they were available – even if ONLY in kid sizes at first – would be ENORMOUS in the disability community.

    And I think the market for something like this in a kid-size-car form would be pretty enormous too. Groups I can think of:

    Able-bodied kids (with an accelerator/wheel car style control and less features, but it would take the worry out of buying a “toy car” for your kid, for rich-type parents who are inclined to buy that stuff).
    Kids with less severe motor disabilities who could use steering as motivation to practice their hand motor control and pedals for feet motor control because driving cars is COOL.
    Joystick controlled model for kids learning to control a joystick for eventual more regular powerchair use. I remember learning at age 25 and they are tricksy things!!
    An exploration toy for kids with visual disabilities only who want a fun and fast way to move that’s safe and about which their parents do not have to panic or chase them to make sure they are OK!

    Probably lots more I can’t think of just now – great safe way to let therapists explore kids ability levels (ie it’ll “catch” you when you can’t manage something) and to teach (gradually reducing the “catching”). It makes my head explode with the possibilities!!!

    Go Danny! Go Gina! If there is ANYTHING I can do that would help please let me know.


  6. Gina

    Absolutely, I will keep you in the loop. Thanks for the offer of support – I just might take you up on that one day if we need to formulate a new plan.

  7. I find that the boats have the joysticks, especially at Sailability.

    And it is definitely a great way to explore by yourself.

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  9. Our First Lego League robotics team did our FLL project this year about a backup system for wheelchairs. We designed this to help a 10 year old friend that uses a wheelchair. He can’t see behind his wheelchair so he has trouble when he backs up. We used a car camera and monitor system, along with Lego NXT ultrasonic sensors to build a prototype. The sensors help the user know when objects are behind the wheelchair. You can find information about our project and a video of our prototype on our website at: http://geniusrobotics.com/content/project

    It isn’t your dream chair. But we thought you might be interested. We are going to install the camera portion of our system on our friends’ wheelchair soon.

    GENIUS – Girls Exploring New Ideas Using Science
    FLL Team 3250

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  11. bluffska

    Woah, I think i get it, as an example for Hudson, if he used his Tobii to select watching the TV, the device could interface with the robotic wheelchair and he it would move into the loungeroom and he could then use the remote in the Tobii to select what he watches on the TV, without the robotic wheelchair he’d rely on someone to move him in there because a powerchair requires more physical control than he can safely master at this stage, that’s awesome Gina, please keep dreaming- it trickles down eventually 😉

  12. Gina @ https://inkyed.wordpress.com

    Chris. Yep, you got it. That is exactly how I envisage it working for Mac and Hudson et al. And sure there are other options out there but they are madly expensive where the goal for us is to have an affordable solution for everyone.

  13. We came back to update you on our project. We installed the backup camera on our friend’s wheelchair. You can view the video of the installation here:

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  15. And because you have an affinity for learning, because
    you read a lot, you have the capacity for personal growth.

    All you have to do is leave the car at home one day and walk or bike to work.
    Jennifer Seal, the chair of the Women’s Health
    Symposium Steering Committee.

  16. Why people still use to read news papers
    when in this technological world all is available on web?

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