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Aerobic exercise for wheelchair users

University of Texas alumnus and students make exercise fun

University of Texas at Austin, Electrical & Computer Engineering


IMAGE: Students from the University of Texas partnered with alumnus to create an arcade experience for manual wheelchair users. view more

Credit: Stephanie Peco

Austin, TX Sept 10, 2008 -- University of Texas at Austin alumnus, Chris Stanford (MSEE '91), and Electrical & Computer Engineering undergraduates are working on making exercise fun for wheelchair users. For the last year, Stanford has been partnering with engineering seniors to test his idea for a virtual reality treadmill for the disabled.

"Not many people realize," says Stanford who has been using a wheelchair since 1988, "the special health risks faced by wheelchair users. Everything is more difficult, including eating right and getting enough exercise. Because of this, the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is several times the rate of the general population."

Stanford's solution, called TrekEase, approximates an arcade driving game. Users back a manual wheelchair into a frame, engage the flywheel for resistance, and start the driving software.

"When Chris approached me last year about using [TrekEase] as one of our senior design projects," says UT-ECE professor Jon Valvano "I was enthusiastic. It's an interesting engineering challenge. He came in with a mechanical system that had already been vetted for safety. The students added software and sensors that make the experience interactive."

Users can control speed and direction. A new group of students is continuing the project this semester. They plan to enhance the existing design so the system detects tilt making flight simulation possible and to work on the packaging so it will be affordable and easily reproducible.

"There is no way I could've done this by myself. I don't have the skill set," says Stanford." The students are amazing. They step up to every challenge."


The Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin is a top-10 program devoted to producing high-quality engineers and research.

If you'd like more information about this topic, please see (video of the student project) and To schedule an interview with Christopher Stanford, please call Chris at 512.567.2066 or email Chris at For information on The University of Texas at Austin, please call Stephanie Peco at 512.232.4298 or email her at

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