'His work is a great example of how engineering can be used to help physically challenged people gain mobility independence,' said Kadyn's advisor Alouani.
Using one's knowledge or education for the betterment of others is always inspiring. It shows that humanity still exists in the society. That is what this Tennessee Tech graduate did. He developed an electric wheelchair that works just like self-driven cars. The idea came to Kadyn Brady when he saw his grandmother Lois, who died two years ago, suffering from dementia and arthritis. He saw how much difficulty she had while driving her standard electric wheelchair, reports Newschannel5.
Talking about her, he was quoted as saying by WKRN.com, “I really loved her. She was such a great person, loved her grandkids, loved spoiling us, so it was definitely hard to see her struggling so much.” Thus began his quest to find a solution to his grandmother's troubles. He took help from his Tennesse Tech engineering professor Ali Alouani and developed an electric wheelchair that could drive itself for his engineering research project.
It took him 18 months to work on the self-driving wheelchair. "I pretty much had no experience with AI," he said. “Basically, my whole first couple semesters, I was just doing a lot of research and trying to figure out how to implement that.” While working on it, he aimed at using technology like GPS, movement sensors and light sensors to add information about where the wheelchair was, the type of terrain it was traveling on and how to take the passenger to the right destination.
“This would require a means to recognize the boundaries of drivable pathways, objects that may obstruct the path, the layout of the paths in a large area, and the system’s current position within the layout of the sidewalk paths,” Brady said, reported Upper Cumberland Business Journal. “It was also important to ensure the system can make these decisions in real-time, because what good is a system that recognizes there is an object in the way after it already hits the object?”
Though by then his grandmother no longer needed a wheelchair, he tested it by driving it around campus and was successful in building the prototype of the technology which allowed him to cross the campus safely and go on the sidewalk with the wheelchair. He said, "I was definitely getting some looks and nods of approval saying that was cool." His professor also found the process interesting. "It was very impressive, especially with cars going back and forth, he had to take some really hard turns and this thing did it. It's very rewarding," Alouani said.
“Kadyn’s work is a great example of how engineering can be used to help physically challenged people gain their mobility independence,” he added. Brady thinks that the self-driving wheelchair still requires a lot of work before people can begin to use it but he can't stop thinking of how proud his grandmother would be of him. He said, "I think she definitely would have appreciated and been excited to maybe use this device."
He is now looking for grant funding so that many more engineering students can continue their work on his self-driving chair. Meanwhile, Brady, who completed his master's degree in electrical engineering, is working as an aerospace engineer in Dallas, according to WKRN.