Project Date: Nov-Dec 2016 (3rd year, 1st sem)
Project Type: Individual Assignment
The purpose of this project is to design for the speculative future of lacrosse. In my speculative future, I see lacrosse as a sport that is adaptive and playable by everyone. My focus for this project is to design for the newest type of lacrosse: wheelchair lacrosse.
Introduction to Wheelchair Lacrosse
Wheelchair lacrosse started in 2009. It has many benefits and is becoming a popular option for wheelchair athletes. Lacrosse is a new and challenging game for players interested in demanding, fast paced action. This sport packs a punch and involves speed, finesse and teamwork.
WLUSA (Wheelchair Lacrosse USA) is the governing body of Wheelchair Lacrosse in the United States. Respecting the history of the sport, WLUSA adheres to its traditions, honor its lineage and share its healing side-effects. WLUSA is growing regional programs and assisting them in taking on lacrosse as a viable and fun addition being added to the list of disabled sport offerings. WLUSA hope that one day wheelchair lacrosse can become a Paralympic sport.
I watched many GoPro videos taken by players during their practice sessions and identified many problems.
- Players are mostly playing with one hand because they need the other hand to steer and move the wheelchair.
- Thumb injuries are common in lacrosse. A study found that thumb injuries account for 59.4% of total hand injuries in men’s lacrosse. Players are encouraged to keep both hands on the stick to minimise the injury because the other hand would cushion the blow. This is not possible for wheelchair lacrosse players.
- They use basketball wheelchairs, but the videos show many of the chairs tipping from being knocked over, or simply when the player makes a sharp turn.
- Players use both hands when throwing or passing the ball. During this time, they have no control of the wheelchair and often slam into other players.
Concept: Embed Wheelchair Controls into LAX Gloves
The proof-of-concept for my project would be to control a RC toy car (analogy for wheelchair) with gloves.
To do this, I first had to acquire a RC car and learn how it works. When I opened up the car, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. I took the parts to Lee’s Electronics and the staff was able to point out the functions of the key parts.
Following this, I decided that I would need to remove the RC transmitter from the control pad and somehow embed it into gloves. I started by separating it from the case and connecting it to a 9V battery outlet.
I played with the different switches on the board to see how they were connected. I noticed that on one side, there were 2 switches. The other side was like the ground wire, so connecting that to either ot the 2 switches would make the car move.
It was super confusing trying to understand the circuit. I spoke to a student from Applied Physics and he told me that it is difficult to reverse engineer circuit boards. He recommends doing a “black box” for the unknown component of the circuit. I drew the parts of the circuit that I was certain about and left the rest in the box.
Then, I separated the left/right and forward/reverse switches into 2 separate circuits for the tech pack, which would include the schematics for the actual product. My prototype would have just one circuit and wires that would run along the back from one glove to the other.
Prototype 1 – Testing the Circuit
I acquired some fluffy gloves for my first prototype so it was easy to put the electrical wires through them. I used conductive washers at the tip of the fingers as switches for the circuit. The thumb was connected to the “ground”, and the index finger was connected to “forward”. When the two washers touch, the wheel spun forward. Watch the video here.
Prototype 2: Sewing Circuit into Real Gloves
I needed lacrosse gloves for my next prototype. My local second hand sports equipment store told me that they don’t get lacrosse gloves often because there aren’t many teams in the area. Hockey gloves are very similar to lacrosse gloves, and the only difference is that the thumb guard is more rigid on the hockey gloves and makes it less flexible. They were able to find a pair that looked very similar to lacrosse gloves and told me that many people in this area use ice hockey equipment for lacrosse because they are quite similar.
There was no way for me to run electric wires through the pre-made gloves, so they would have to be outside. I sewed black electric wires into the seams between the fingers to hide them. I then secured the washers to the fingertips with non-conductive thread. Sewing this for both gloves took over 5 hours.
The next step was to somehow attach the board and battery to the glove. At first, I thought it would be easiest to have the board and battery in the middle of the gloves, so it would go on the back or somewhere in that area. However, the players wear protective equipment for the body so placing electronic parts there did not make sense. The next idea was to have them on the inner side of the non-dominant hand since it is the less likely for the opponent’s stick to hit there. For me, the non-dominant hand is the left hand, so the pouch would be attached to the left glove. I started by creating a diagram to show how big the pouch needed to be. I didn’t have the right thickness foam, so I decided to use spacer fabric instead. I had to use the walking foot to attach the pouch to the gloves because the glove padding was so thick.
Once the left glove was finished, I had to connect it to the right glove. Ideally, the actual product would have a transmitter board and battery on each glove. But since I only had one board, I had to run wires from one to the other in order to have them both connect to the board. The problem is that the wires are not stretchy, so the ends could break off or become loosened. Being inspired by the zigzag stitch and how it remains stretchy, I decided to test sewing wires in a wave pattern on stretchy elastic straps.
Once all the wires were set in place, I soldered them to the board. Then I hot glued them to prevent them from moving while the board is put in or taken out of the pouch.