A team of Georgia Tech undergraduate students watched as their award-winning senior capstone project was unveiled at the start of the Chiari and Syringomyelia Foundation’s (CSF) annual Bobby Jones Golf Classic tournament at historic East Lake Golf Club. Their working prototype, a customized golf car and dynamic seat designed to allow children with disabilities to golf, was demonstrated before a crowd at the start of this charitable tournament. Earlier, the team’s project won the interdisciplinary category at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s spring 2015 Capstone Design Expo, which had 198 teams competing. Team members were: Blair Naples, Matthew Brooks, Jarad Heimer, Alexander Pergakis, and Jackson Thomas. An interdisciplinary team combines two or more academic disciplines or fields of study.
Children with physical disabilities, but who possess the ability to swing a golf club, will have an opportunity to play the game of golf using this car. The project was sponsored by CSF, E-Z-GO, and Jones Global Sports. Bob Jones IV, Psy.D., the grandson of legendary golfer Bobby Jones, said, “This car allows people with physical challenges to get out and enjoy this fantastic game. It is a wonderful and exciting thing. I am very proud to see this contribution being made by my grandfather’s alma mater Georgia Tech.” His grandfather suffered from syringomylelia (a spinal disorder) later in life.
E-Z-GO donated the car to the Georgia Tech team. Steven Meyer, product manager from E-Z-GO, said, “This is the perfect project for our company because it allows us to partner with a great school like Georgia Tech to develop their engineering students, help a great charity, and grow the game of golf.”
The goal of the Bobby Jones Classic Golf Car project was to develop a newly imagined, lighter and more cost-effective device that would enable children and adults who live with differing levels of paralysis to play golf and remain physically active and healthy. The car features a custom designed swivel seat with 45-degree forward actuation, 85-degree outward rotation, and an upper body and lower body belted harness system. The golf car provides users with unparalleled ease of play. Novel hand controls allow users to control the acceleration and braking of the car with a special turtle mode for optimal green movement. Most importantly, the golf car provides users with a strong sense of independence and loads of fun.
“The students who developed this concept interviewed subject matter experts and disabled children to ensure its safety, comfort, and ergonomics,” said Dorothy Poppe, executive director of CSF. “As the parent of a young adult with a spinal disorder, this is a breakthrough for kids suffering from paralysis. Its applications are vast and makes sports, particularly the game of golf, a once seemingly impossible physical activity possible.”
Joe Le Doux and James Rains, faculty members of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) were on hand at the event. Rains, BME’s Director of Capstone, introduced features and technical specifications associated with the new car design to the crowd of onlookers. And it turns out that Le Doux, associate professor, was nearly a scratch golfer in his youth. So, Le Doux was in his element. And so was Bobby Baird, the young golfer who gave the car its test run, a living, breathing example of why CSF and Georgia Tech are working together on this project.
“We came up with the idea of creating a handicap friendly car for children because they did not have an opportunity to play golf at a younger age,” said Paul Farrell, chairman and founding member of CSF, who is battling the same disease that Jones had. “CSF is very proud to be part of the project with Georgia Tech. The students did a phenomenal job. And you can see the car gives children of approximately any age the opportunity to play golf.”
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology