Abstract: Ralf Hotchkiss will track the design of the Whirlwind Wheelchair from its beginning thirty years ago to the present and on into the future. From the first design breakthroughs of barefoot blacksmiths to the high tech testing and manufacturing methods of today, surprise breakthroughs in basic wheelchair design have come from the backyard inventors of some forty developing countries. These inventors, along with several graduates of the Stanford d.school, form the Whirlwind Network of wheelchair riders and designers. Their goal is not only to make wheelchairs available in the poorest of countries; it is to radically improve the durability and rough-ground mobility so that wheelchair riders can live and work in environments that they can only dream of visiting today. Ralf will show unfinished designs that open wide opportunities for new developments, and he will make a plea for the innovative designers of Stanford to enter into one of today's most fulfilling areas of invention and international development work.
Biosketch: Ralf Hotchkiss is an inventor and the lead designer of the Whirlwind Wheelchair International, a non-profit located in Berkeley. Its mission is "to make it possible for every person in the developing world who needs a wheelchair to obtain one that will lead to maximum personal independence and integration into society". Ralf taught a SFSU class, Engineering 620: Wheelchair Design and Construction, in which students built a complete wheelchair in a Third World appropriate shop. Ralf is a graduate of Oberlin College and a 1989 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
Everyone is welcome to attend