When beginning the process of determining a project for the Spring 2014 semester, the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth’s (CCEW) Agile Product Design Team (APD) at the University of Oklahoma worked tirelessly to find a significant problem they could solve. The six team members, Dillon Carroll, Lauren Gilbert, Daniel Meschter, Michael Petri, Andrew Stewart and Ethan Van Meter, considered ideas ranging from innovatively simple medical devices to game-changing social enterprise products. In one of their many brainstorming sessions, the concept of creating a wheelchair lifting system emerged. The team quickly discovered that manual wheelchair users have no effective solutions for the reach-related difficulties they face on a daily basis. This includes reaching extra shelves at the grocery store, having face-to-face conversations, and using raised cabinets at home. Research has shown that tips and falls from over-reaching are common, leading to tens of thousands of hospitalized injuries. Home retrofits to solve some of these difficulties can cost more than $20,000.
Long hours were spent designing and thinking about not only how wheelchair users would perceive the experimental prototyping sessions, but also how safe they felt, what they were thinking while using the latest iteration, as well as what they thought could be improved. Taking into account direct user feedback was crucial to fully understanding what design characteristics were needed. The team itself has a broad range of knowledge and expertise ranging from backgrounds in physics and economics to industrial, chemical and mechanical engineering. This allowed the team to approach the design of the Levaté Lift from many different perspectives. From countless late nights in the machine shops at OU working on prototypes to numerous phone interviews with wheelchair experts across the nation, the perseverance and unwavering dedication of the team were major contributing factors to the success Levaté has experienced thus far.
After the semester ended, two members of the team, Dillon Carroll and Ethan Van Meter, partook in the Sooner Launchpad Accelerator (SLP), which gave the Levaté team seed funding through an exhausting 10-week program consisting of countless seminars and discussions with established entrepreneurs on how to create a successful startup business. After excelling in the SLP, Levaté began to transition from the prototyping phase to the design/manufacturing phase as the team met with potential venture capitalists to acquire the capital needed to make the Levaté Lift a legitimate product. While meeting with potential investors, the team continued to prototype the lift on their own, creating more than five functional prototypes. With working prototypes completed, it was time to focus on securing funding to work with product design partner Soulcake Creative to finalize the product development and deliver an exquisite, highly functional product. Check out their Kickstarter Campaign!
Meet the Team!