Kenyan Inventor Builds Electronic Wheelchairs Powered by Laptop Batteries
By Malanie Nagi and Alexandra Mae Jones |
Lincoln Wamae doesn’t see trash when he comes across a discarded laptop in a junkyard. He sees opportunity.
The 30-year-old scavenges scrap metal and electronics to create custom electronic chairs — a hobby that has turned into a way to help Kenyans with physical disabilities regain their independence.
Wamae, who lives in Nairobi, taught himself the skills to build his creations. The chairs resemble motorized tricycles more than the typical wheelchair. Each is unique, as the seats are made from old office chairs and the wheels can vary in size, and they have handlebars as well for increased control.
His recycled creations are “durable … (with) good stability,” he says, and have “a long range because of the battery.”
The chairs are powered by old laptop batteries — and they’re fast. In a demonstration, Wamae peels across a dirt field, turning sharp corners with ease.
“The reason why I designed and started building the wheelchairs is because I saw people with disabilities had a lot of issues moving from Point A to Point B,” Wamae told CTV News.
Maryann Wanjiru has personally benefitted from Wamae’s innovative design. She has been partially paralyzed since she was 8 years old and struggled to get around on her own.
That changed when she was given one of the Wamae’s chairs.
“When fully charged, I can use it for up to three days,” she said. “There is nowhere I cannot go.”
It is estimated that more than four million people in Kenya live with disabilities.
But Wamae makes more than just wheelchairs: he has also made scooters, electric bikes and even motorized unicycles.
Wamae is hoping he can turn his skills into a business, and not only bring his chairs to more people across Kenya, but also figure out what other mobility issues he can solve with recycled materials.
This article was first published by CTV News on February 22, 2020.