It was around a decade ago when Gilda Heath’s life took a turn.
“I have MS (multiple sclerosis), which has, in the last 10 years, put me into a power wheelchair,” Heath said from her Victoria home.
For Heath, simple tasks like grabbing groceries became a major challenge, so she went searching for help and found a few University of Victoria Engineering students looking to offer some assistance.
In the past, senior engineering students Kim Arklie and Jacquie Moreland have worked on projects like the PAW (personal assistive writing device). This time, the duo led a team of seven biomedical engineering students to create the Mobilarm — a device that attaches to power wheelchairs and helps users carry everyday items including groceries.
“The goal of this project was to basically make a prototype that she can take away and use and change her life,” said Moreland, a fifth-year biomedical engineering student.
The two worked closely with Gilda, manufacturing firms and health officials on everything from concept, to design and the final prototype.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears,” said Arklie, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student. “I think working on the project the past year and how impactful it is for her and everyone else, I feel very honored to work on the project.”
The project recently earned first place in the province-wide Simon Cox Student Design Competition, receiving praise for its intuitive and cost-friendly design. More importantly, their hard work has helped provide Gilda with the priceless gift of independence.
“I’m absolutely amazed,” said Heath. “It’s wonderful the way it’s worked together, and, the young women, they came in and how professional they were about completing the project.”
“It’s pretty cool to go home at the end of everyday knowing that the work you did is helping someone,” said Moreland, whose team started the project in September 2020. “It’s making their life better, so, yeah, it’s a pretty special experience.”
The final product should be complete in a few weeks, and the two aim to work with non-profits and produce many more Mobilarms for those in need on Vancouver Island and beyond. The two also plan on making a career out of pursuing similar initiatives, continuing to use their minds for the greater good.
“We really hope that is can reach as many people as possible,” said Moreland. “It feels really good to give back.”