Amos Winter, currently a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, is dedicated to solving the problems of mobility in the developing world. Fourteen million mobility-impaired people live in rural areas of developing countries where unpaved roads and paths make getting around dangerous and inaccessible for many. For those that do have access to a traditional wheelchair, maneuvering on unpaved, and often hilly terrain, transportation is dangerous and physically challenging. Taking a cue from the design of mountain bikes, Winter invented the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC).
Through an ingenious use of a variable speed lever-drive gear train, the user of the LFC can maneuver and drive the wheelchair on a variety of terrains including, muddy, sandy, or rocky roads through changing hand positions on the levers. The LFC provides mobility-impaired individuals living in rural areas an option to transport themselves safely to their destinations. By adjusting the hand position on the levers, the user utilizes the mechanical innovations of the chair to move and don’t need to rely on physical strength or size to push. Materials for the LFC are made from off the shelf bicycle parts, making the chair affordable to users. For his invention, Winter was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from the Inter-American Bank for a trial in 2010.
Among the many awards that Winter and his Leveraged Freedom Chair have won are the 2009 American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s Gradate Student Design Competition and the MIT IDEAS Competition for International Technology. Winter has a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a 2003 graduate of Tufts University.
Amos’ PhD research focuses on biologically inspired mechanisms for burrowing through soil. One of his inventions, the RoboClam, seeks to mimic the capabilities of the Atlantic Razor Clam and its ability to dig through soil in deep water in an energy-efficient way. Potential uses of the RoboClam include deep water drilling, burying underwater cables, and mine removal.
Winter also serves as a mentor for students. As the Director of the former MIT Mobility Lab (M-Lab), now called Global Research, Innovation and Technology, Winter teaches and advises MIT students interested in identifying and creating affordable innovative technology for the disabled in developing countries. During his time at MIT, he has mentored over twenty-five students through MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).