Mechanical Engineering graduates ready to test pioneering walking frame
Three graduates from the Department of Mechanical Engineering are ready to begin testing their innovative walking frame design.
Exyo, who aim to help people with disabilities caused by neurological disorders to be able to walk on rough terrain, have now developed a prototype of their unique posterior walking frame.
The team is made up of three mechanical engineering graduates, Christopher, Andrew and Johnathan, who began by designing a medical device for a young boy called Louis as part of their university course. This inspired them to look at helping people across the world address the problems caused by disability.
“We adapted Louis’ walker by putting off-road wheels on it, and it made a big difference to his therapy goals,” said Andy. “We thought, with our engineering backgrounds, that we could do even better if we started from scratch.”
Because most walking frames are only suitable for indoor therapeutic use, many users have trouble accessing areas with rough terrain. For children in developing countries such as Ghana, where one in every 300 births is affected by cerebral palsy, even getting to school can be a problem.
Exyo received significant help from the University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE) team during their development. They attended a Startup Weekend, where aspiring entrepreneurs come together to launch businesses in just 54 hours, and use the co-working space provided as their office.
“It is good co-working with other people who are trying to start a business,” said Andy. “We’re not all working on the same business but everyone has to do tax, everyone has knock backs, and you are all thinking about how to market your idea.”
They also came first in the Concept category of the USE Evolve business planning competition this year. The competition allows students and recent graduates of the University of Sheffield to enter their business ideas for a chance to win up to £5000.
They used their winnings, along with a grant from Innovate UK, to fund the development of their finished prototype.
“We had a functional prototype, but we needed to get a final stage one that we could pitch with and test,” said Christopher. “With medical devices, you need to have a perfectly functioning prototype and you have to then go through certification steps to say that it suits the need and that it’s safe, and then you can release it,” added Andy.
Exyo have now been awarded funding from the Yorkshire and Humber Proof of Concept development program, which they are going to use to pay for the testing and certification of the walker.
“All being well, we expect that this will allow us to certify our walker by the end of March,” said Andy.
To find out more about Exyo, visit www.exyo.co.uk.