Determined to make a difference, we wanted to build what was widely held to be impossible: a fully-functional wheelchair that could be controlled by a person's thoughts – all within 8-month time period, with a team of five engineering students and only $1500 in funding.
The time when I managed to put together a team to build a thought-controlled wheelchair prototype in 8 months. We had zero knowledge of electromechanical design, electroencephalography, signal processing or any basic ML/statistical knowledge when we started but somehow, we managed to pull it off.
I was invited to speak at the inaugural TEDxUW (back in 2011) after we pulled this miracle off:
Some excerpts from the media coverage of the TEDxUW pertaining to my talk:
CTV News (Interview + Article)
Safwan Choudhury was a speaker at the conference. Now an engineer, Choudhury and some classmates had a vision during their days at the University of Waterloo to design a thought-controlled wheelchair. “At UW you’re just surrounded by some of the smartest and brightest people doing some amazing things, and it really inspires you,” Choudhury says. Now Choudhury wants to inspire that next generation of students.
TechVibes Blog (Article)
Safwan Choudhury, who also spoke at TEDxUW has a disabled family member, so he was inspired to invent a wheelchair that was thought controlled for paralyzed persons. He said that engineering is about small problems that you can individually solve. In this case the three-step process was about reading thoughts, interpreting thoughts and then acting on interpretation for the technology to work. He also says that there is a large jump between theory and reality, so you have to close the gap.
The Iron Warrior (University of Waterloo’s Engineering Newspaper)
As an Engineering student, a word that really inspired me, presented by one of the speakers, Safwan Choudhury, was “Imagineering: Letting your imagination soar, and then engineering it down to earth.”