What happens when a ragtag group of engineers unite to solve a mystery? We will never know, because this team of engineers was assembled to design and construct a supportive chair for a 13-month-old child with cerebral palsy. The goal of the project is to construct a modular highchair that offers a comfortable sitting position, along with head and lumbar support.
The client requested a supportive chair for a 13-month-old child with cerebral palsy and a G-tube for feeding. The child’s motor skills mirror that of a 3-month-old and the client would like to give the child more opportunities to socialize with their siblings and stimulate balanced muscular development. The family suggested a reclined, comfortable chair with a high table or tray. After further interactions with the family, mobility became a concern due to the prospect of the child needing to ride comfortably in a vehicle. The supportive chair needed to be lightweight, modular, and support social interaction and balanced muscular growth.
Background of Child’s Dimensions:
. The child weighs 20-25 lbs, so we will need a booster seat that can grow with the child for at least 2 – 3 years
. Must be able to support the baby’s head to allow her to develop the ability to support it on her own
. The chair must be on a set of wheels to allow ease of movement around the house
. Must be able to adjust and lock into different recline positions
. Highly padded chair to prevent discomfort
. The chair must be able to adjust between 1.5 ft and 3 ft to allow for more interaction between her older and younger part of her family
. Allow for a table to either be attached or rolled up to the chair to help with hand motor skills development
. Car seat base for ease of transportation
. Phone / tablet stand attachment to stimulate the ability to control her head
The child we are designing this chair for has diagnoses of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy / Cerebral Palsy and is on a G-tube. Their symptoms include developmental milestones such as difficulty holding their head up, postural abnormalities, and preference of using one side of their body versus the other.
A preliminary concept was based around this Special Tomato chair. A detachable seat on a base with locking wheels, and a rolling activity table to accompany it. We appreciated the soft touch design of the seat, and the possibility to attach it to various chairs and strollers. However, the cost of this system and the lack of adequate lumbar and head support made this option not feasible.
This concept primarily focuses on height adjustability and mobility. The family mentioned they had some stairs and carpet in their home, so we wanted to incorporate those challenges in our design. After seeing the dorms on our campus using luggage trolleys with stair climbing wheels, we thought this would be an innovative idea to put in our own chair design. The two back legs would have these stair wheels while the front two legs would have robust locking wheels. This potentially gives the family an easier method to travel and move the chair to where they need it to be. We decided that pin-locking mechanisms for height adjustability would be the most practical.
Our final concept features a car seat paired with a semi-permanent height adjustable base, and an activity table that can be attached to the car seat. Due to our lack of expertise in postural ergonomics, especially for children with special needs, we asked the family if they had a car seat model they were looking at. They provided us with one that seems like it would be a perfect addition to our design. It can recline in multiple positions, good head and lumbar supports and straps, the added ability to function as a car seat, all at a very reasonable price. For mount design, we explored various options such as quick release clips from camera tripods. For simplicity and ease of use, we landed on draw latches as they are simple to use and attach without modifying the car seat extensively. We found these to be the easiest method to quickly attach and remove the car seat.