Principal Investigator/s: Chris Willems, ME, Donald Spaeth, PhD
Co-Investigator/s: Rory Cooper, PhD, William Ammer, BS


The game wheels training system is an exercise station developed for individuals who use manual wheelchairs. The manual wheelchair is positioned on top of two dynamometer rollers and secured so that it remains stationary while the occupant propels the chair’s rear wheels through the hand rims. The rear wheels in turn drive the rollers.

A key innovation is the use of a video game to provide motivation to the consumer during exercise. The game used is one that would typically be operated with a joystick. On the game wheels system, the velocity of the wheelchair wheels controls the game. A special circuit reads the velocity of the rollers and uses a computer chip to convert these values into joystick signals. The occupant performs left and right joystick actions by pushing the wheels at different speeds. A large computer monitor is mounted at eye level in front of the wheelchair so the user can enjoy the game.

The present project has completed two, third generation prototypes of the game wheels system and completed a focus group study it to determine whether it meets new design criteria. Improvements include weight reduction, making the mounting and dismounting from the rollers entirely user managed and reducing the overall length of the machine through smaller rollers and a shorter loading ramp.

The “Trainer” is a new version of the GameWheels concept. The Trainer uses ergometers borrowed from the bicycle industry these bear directly on the wheelchair’s rear wheels. There is no dynamometer system at all. A specially designed pair of lever arms allows the occupant to raise the wheelchair’s rear wheels off the floor to allow “rolling in place”. The trainer will also operates video games and is light and small enough for home use.