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Students/Faculty News Stephen Lanzi July 13, 2023

RecTech team smiling for a group photo.Our RecTech team welcomed partner Motivation to the Human Performance Lab at the WHARF on Friday, July 7, to show off and get feedback for the team’s prototype frame runner in development.

Frame running is a growing adapted sport in which the athlete runs using a three-wheel frame supported by a saddle and body plate. The group said the goal is for the sport to be included in the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

Motivation, based out of the United Kingdom, is an international development charity and social enterprise with a 30-year history of wheelchair provision. The organization partnered with RecTech, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Recreation, Sports and Exercise Technologies for Persons with Disabilities, because of the center’s expertise in adaptive technology.

“This is amazing,” said School of Health Professions Dean Andrew Butler. “RecTech has been with us for a long time. It’s where innovation happens. It’s where creativity happens. This is really exciting. We’re very committed to working with people with physical limitations, and this is just another aspect of that.”

Claire Childs, sports range manager, and Chris Rushman, technical specialist, of Motivation came to town from the United Kingdom to visit with the RecTech research team and Lakeshore Foundation members.

“About 15 years ago, we were asked by the International Paralympic Committee to turn our attention to sport to develop something more accessible at entry level to get people more involved wherever they are and bring that same design philosophy into it,” Childs said.

The team was also eager to visit because Birmingham was the host site for the Hartford Nationals, an annual adapted sports competition hosted by Move United. Childs and Rushman brought the prototype to the event and received feedback from the athletes.

Rushman said Motivation was able to break the market with low-cost racing wheelchairs for other sports, and he’s hoping they’ll be able to use the same model for the frame runner because the market is filled with over-priced medical devices.

“We are going to hand over these products to users to take home, so we can find out if they get it in their car, if they’re really going to use it – all sorts of user testing,” said RecTech Director Mohan Thirumalai. “We are also partnering with Howard School of Medicine’s biomechanics labs to do all sorts of safety testing.”

The frame runner was a device initially brought about in Scandinavia to enable people with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury or other mobility limitations to be able to run, walk or move without other support. In addition to competition, the team believes the device will enable recreational use. Childs was thrilled when a mother described how her daughter could use the device to go on family walks and not feel left out.

“There’s something quite powerful to see someone transfer from a wheelchair where they’ve only been able to propel themselves and move into a frame runner, and then all you see is there back because they’re off,” she said.

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