A team of about 30 teenage robotics enthusiasts in Ra’anana recently unveiled a 3D-printed kit that transforms a standard $500 wheelchair into the equivalent of a $2,500 electronic wheelchair with enhanced maneuverability and powerful braking.

The add-on doesn’t interfere with the chair’s folding mechanism and is easily removed, so it can be attached to a rented wheelchair that must be returned in its original condition.

The wheelchair can be folded with the kit attached. Photo by Roee Bar-Yadin

The Electric Wheelchair Kit was devised by “Team 1577 Steampunk” from Aviv High School as part of its participation in the regional round of the global FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). But the kids are not keeping it to themselves.

“Our idea was to release it on an open-source platform to nearly 7,000 FRC teams in the world who can become a hub for making these kits,” team member Roee Bar-Yadin tells ISRAEL21c.

The wheelchair user controls the chair with the push of a finger. Photo by Roee Bar-Yadin

The design, 3D printable programs and software are available for free online“ so anyone can build it from scratch” using tools, programs and printers commonly available to FRC teams everywhere, adds teammate Yuval Dascalu.

“We have already been contacted by several people who are interested,” Yuval tells ISRAEL21c. “We encourage people to improve on our design in any way they see fit or at least spread the word to other teams.”

The teens said that the idea originated with an FRC team at Aviv High School five years ago but was never brought to fruition until now because of its complexity. The current team wanted to keep trying, and received monetary support from the Ra’anana municipality to do so.

“We wanted to help our communities and thought this would be a good way to do it,” says Roee.

An underside view of the 3D-printed kit on the wheelchair. Photo by Roee Bar-Yadin

Working in their free time in a school workshop, Team 1577 Steampunk used mechanics, electronics and programming skills to devise the kit, and fabricated the printable parts on a Printrbot Play compact 3D printer. They were mentored by mechanics and electronics teacher Uri Cohen and former Aviv students Noam Alachanati and Ori Agranat.

Team 1577 Steampunk from Aviv High School in Ra’anana, Israel. Photo: courtesy