I really like this story, which I got from Medgadget (hat tip). It’s about a new product, designed by a student, Mr. Edwin Yau of the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. It was the winner of the (Australian) Dyson Design Awards, and it looks like it deserved it.
Mr. Yau’s design for the StairbustA addresses a major problem in any emergency evacuation and also in just moving sick people from one spot to another. I know about this because I worked my way through school as a “transporter” in a hospital radiology department. Here’s the description of the StairbustA:
The StairbustA is an unique product that allows a single user to rapidly transfer a non-ambulant elderly or disabled person down a flight of stairs and over harsh terrain in an emergency situation, without compromising the safety and wellbeing of the evacuee. The StairbustA is unique in that it is able to transform from a “stretcher” position to a “chair” position due to the integration of a two-way hydraulic actuator and a clever pin-catch adjustment system. This ability to transform makes the StairbustA unlike any other product currently available on the market.
The StairbustA represents excellence in design as its functional capabilities encompass a wide range of emergency evacuation scenarios, primarily due to its ability to transform from a “stretcher” position to a “chair” position. The entire stretcher component can also be “unclipped” from the main chassis in case of confined space evacuation. This is a product which would be suited, but not limited to, situations where the safe and rapid evacuation of non-ambulant elderly or disabled persons is crucial, for example, a fire scenario in a nursing home, hospital, community centre, library, etc.
Existing products designed for use in emergency evacuation scenarios possess many flaws such as their inability to negotiate tight corners; the requirement of more than one carer per evacuee per occasion; the inappropriateness for transportation of frail patients; and the necessity for prior training to use the device as opposed to design intuition. In addition, the majority of existing products are manufactured overseas which has resulted in inflated costs, with products ranging from $500-3000 per device.
The original use of a two-way hydraulic actuator integrated with a pin-catch adjustment system allows the product to transform from a “stretcher” position to a “chair” position with minimal effort and in little time. The “stretcher” position allows the non-ambulant patient to be transferred onto the device in a supine position, for example from a bed. This is critical for the evacuation of non-ambulant patients who are physically incapable of movement without external assistance, and is a design feature which current products do not possess. Following the transferal of the patient onto the device, the device is then adjusted into the “chair” position before it travels over the stairs and to safety in an outside location. The patient can then be offloaded and the device re-used immediately to evacuate any further evacuees. (Dyson Design Awards)
Mr. Yau took care to use existing parts to keep manufacturing costs down. This is the kind of thing that could have come out of the private sector, but didn’t.
Here’s a pic: