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Student offers hope to 50,000 people living with spinal cord injuries

A student at Cardiff Metropolitan University has been crowned the winner of a national competition which aims to improve the lives of people with spinal cord injuries.

The competition aimed to raise awareness of the challenges facing people with spinal cord injuries and how innovative designs can make a difference.

Thomas Salkeld, 23, has designed a ‘smart wheel’ to help wheelchair users on uneven ground, going uphill and on long journeys. The wheel can be added to most wheelchairs and can be controlled from a smart phone.

To help inspire his design, Thomas bought a wheelchair and used it to travel around, which he found particularly exhausting when travelling uphill. He also spoke to several people with spinal cord injuries to run his prototype designs past them for feedback.

Thomas, who is currently in his third year at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying Product Design, has won a cash prize of £3,000 and a further £2,000 for his university. Thomas said:

I am ecstatic about winning the competition as designing to help people is my passion and what I wish to pursue in the future.

The competition was organised by Cerebra, a charity which supports parents of children with brain injuries, and Bolt Burden Kemp, a law firm specialising in serious injury claims. The competition was designed to help the estimated 50,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK.

Victoria Oliver, head of the spinal injury team at law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said:

We were blown away by the quality of the entries this year and it’s fantastic to see how much research went into everyone’s designs.

Thomas’s design showed real awareness of the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair and he went to great lengths to make sure his Smart Wheel design was practical, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing.

The smart wheel design will go on display at Cerebra’s innovation centre in Wales, which they use to design bespoke equipment for the children they serve.


Image by Green Light Digital

You can find out more about the competition here.