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UVA Students Design Solar-Powered Wheelchair - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Students Design Solar-Powered Wheelchair

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Dennis Waldron and the solar-powered wheelchair he and other UVA students created Dennis Waldron and the solar-powered wheelchair he and other UVA students created

What started as a class project turned into an award-winning invention for a group of University of Virginia students. The engineering students created a solar-powered wheelchair.

The group of students spent many grueling nights working on the invention all in hopes to finish it in 90 days. After three months, the wheelchair is up and running, thanks to a lot of hard work and the sun.

Alper Sirvan's life just got a little bit easier. He has cerebral palsy and lives in Turkey. He has never met the students who built the solar-powered wheelchair but he's benefiting from the group's success firsthand.

He pitched the idea for the sun-powered wheelchair from Turkey, where he entered it into the "Change My Life in One Minute" contest for World Cerebral Palsy Day. The engineering students thought the idea was brilliant and took on the challenge - and it was quite a challenge.

"It got to the point where we would be sitting there at midnight and we'd go, ‘you know, this just isn't working' and tear the whole thing down and start over," said Dennis Waldron, who worked on the wheelchair.

Waldron says the group had to tear down the wheelchair four times before they finally got it right. Group members say they look forward to sending the finished project off to Turkey so Sirvan can use it.

Sirvan currently uses a wheelchair that he has had for years and told the students he has a hard time getting it up and down hills.

"In his entry he wrote that in a lot of places there they don't always have access to always-on power, so if they need to get around it's a huge mobility issue for those people over there that don't have power all the time," Waldron said.  

Steven Bennett, with United Cerebral Palsy, says the students' invention is about more than just science.

"It's really about humanity, it's really about making the world an easier and better place," Bennett said.

The students were granted $20,000 for the invention. They say they are using part of the money to ship the wheelchair off to Turkey and are giving the rest back to United Cerebral Palsy.

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