Monday, August 27, 2012

Underwater Wheelchair Put To Test

Artist Sue Austin is scheming to uncover off a antecedent self-propelled underwater wheelchair to the public.

Ms Austin, who has been a wheelchair user given 1996, created the chair with help from dive experts and academics.

The model is powered by two dive thrust vehicles and directed with a bespoke fin and foot-operated acrylic strip.

She is entertainment a opening with it in a swimming pool in Weymouth this week.

"Creating the Spectacle" forms segment of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations.

Ms Austin says she initial had the thought after learning to scuba dive in 2005.

"When you proposed discussing to people about it, engineers were adage it wouldn't work, the wheelchair would go in to a spin, it was not written to go by H2O - but I was certain it would," she told the BBC.

It was built with appropriation from the Arts Council's Impact Scheme.

Finding a fitting dive thrust van to propel the chair was primarily tough because many propeller models were written to be hand-held and Ms Austin lacked the strength to grip on to them.

Eventually she trialled a model that was written for scuba divers with disabilities - and then updated two to the wheelchair.

Ms Austin paid for an NHS wheelchair is to plan and outlayed months with her group perfecting its buoyancy. She primarily written levity aids, but in the finish found that elementary swimming floats worked better.

"If you only put a thruster beneath the chair all the thrust is next the centre of sobriety so you rotate," she said. "It was of course more more acrobatic than I anticipated."

She mutated the heel bowls so that they shaped fins at the backs of her heels and re-drilled the rubber straps to affix her legs to the acrylic "wings" she indispensable to drive the vehicle.

The add-on of the second thruster and fin meant that the wings were no longer functional but she kept them for cultured reasons.

The wheelchair moreover compulsory a more strong chair to hoop the pressure placed on it during a performance.

"I would admire to emanate a chronicle with palm controls - but I need my arms to be giveaway is to performance," mentioned Ms Austin.

The wheelchair, that had patents tentative and was as nonetheless unnamed, was already in demand, she said.

"We've had PADI [Professional Association of Diving Instructors] course directors and really gifted scuba divers adage they would pay to sinecure it," she said.

"The Oceanography subdepartment at the University of Plymouth, where I did a BA [bachelor of humanities degree] in conducting art, mentioned it would make their courses attainable to students with disabilities."

There is a complaint with the wheelchair however - the support is commencement to rust. Ms Austin says that perfectly the next model should be done of titanium.

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