Students create obstacle detector for wheelchair users

Plans in pipeline to turn college project into business

Wheelchair user Arnau Estanyol alongside the young inventors and classmates (by  ACN)
Wheelchair user Arnau Estanyol alongside the young inventors and classmates (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Girona

June 15, 2018 04:02 PM

Four Catalan students have designed an obstacle detector system that alerts wheelchair users when something is in the way.

The device is made up of four sensors placed on different parts of the wheelchair, and is already being used by Arnau Estanyol, a teenager from Girona who is blind and has cerebral palsy.


For Arnau’s mother, Cloti Mongrí, it is a life-changer. What was previously “something unthinkable” for Montgrí and her husband has become a reality. Arnau’s autonomy has been significantly improved.

Although he is still unable to go onto the street unattended, Arnau’s mother said she was “very satisfied” with “the possibilities.”

 “Just the fact that he doesn’t have to ask us to take him to one place or another is very important for him,” she explained on Friday.

Thanks to Àlex Sánchez, Pau Ruscalleda, Enric Isard, and Xavier Llopart of the Institut de Montilivi de Girona, Arnau can now move about in small spaces without supervision.

If something is blocking his path, a warning is sounded. Each alert is different depending on where the obstacle is.


“We looked for a similar existing system, but couldn’t find anything, so we can say that we started from scratch,” explained Àlex Sánchez. They were inspired by similar sensors found in vehicles.

Not only does the device help with Arnau’s mobile independence, but it also allows him to listen to music. “We know he likes it a lot, so that’s why we put it,” Sánchez said.

The students now have plans to take their design further. With an eye to making the system commercial, some of the designers’ classmates studying Administration and Finance have prepared a business plan. They are now seeking to raise capital and move forward with the project. For this reason, they’ve given it a name: Rolling for me.

“We calculate that 3,000 euros are needed from the partners, and a credit of 25,000 euros, to move forward with the business,” said classmate Mireia Giol.