Capstone 2019 Highlight: Quick Release Rowing Assistive Grips

Capstone Highlight Rowing Grips

Capstone 2019 Highlight: Quick Release Rowing Assistive Grips
Department: Biomedical Engineering
Team: Mohammed Almutawa, Gifty Gracious-Ross, Alaysha Shearn, Jay Spangler
Adviser: Carrie Peterson, Ph.D.
Sponsor: Sportable

A Capstone Design team has created custom equipment to make rowing a safer sport for athletes with physical disabilities.

Sportable, a Richmond, Virginia-based organization that seeks to transform the lives of people with physical and visual disabilities through sport, works with adaptive sport rowers, including those with tetraplegia. A spinal cord injury that results in tetraplegia causes paralysis of some upper-limb muscles, such as hand and forearm muscles, but may not impact proximal muscles such as shoulder and biceps.

Some athletes at Sportable with tetraplegia have impaired hand function and are unable to grip the oar, but enough proximal muscle function to row when their hands are secured to the oar. However, if the boat were to capsize, having their hands secured to the oar would present a major safety concern.

This student team addressed this challenge by designing a grip aid that can be quickly released. The team’s custom oar handle has two slots for a user’s mitt, which is attached to the slots with 3D-printed interfacing parts. Those parts are held in a set position with solenoid actuators that are controlled by a switch located at the end of the handle that a user without fine motor control can turn on and off. When the switch is turned on, the solenoid actuators will unlock, causing the release of the user’s hand.

The team plans to demonstrate a prototype of the device at Capstone Design Expo on April 26, 2019.