Robotic wheelchair designed by engineering students, non-profit helps disabled go surfing

SANTA BARBARA-SANTA MONICA, Calf. -- A new device could help those living with disabilities ride the wave a little easier.

Some college engineering students and a non-profit group are developing a robot to help people with disabilities go surfing on their own.

"It looks like a mini tank," said Dana Cummings, founder of AmpSurf. "Everyone wants their independence. It doesn't matter who you are. When you're in a wheelchair, you lose some of that independence."

So AmpSurf and the California Polytechnic State University engineering program came together to make a self-propelling, all-terrain wheelchair to allow people with disabilities to get to the water, surf, and get out of the water -- all while being completely independent, KSBY reported.

"When we bring folks to the beach that are in wheelchairs and stuff, they usually have a ton of people helping them get down to the water and everything else," Cummings said. "This gives some independence back to those surfers."

Four Cal Poly engineering students, including industrial engineering senior Lauren Knott, have worked on the self-driving wheelchair for the past nine months as their senior project.

"It's really making a difference for people. People with disabilities are able to go surfing and kind of experience surfing as a form of therapy and as a form of fun," Knott said. "We felt like doing a project like this was really going to make a difference."

The all-terrain wheelchair is able to get down to the water, allow surfers to unload their board, and with a smart phone, they can do the rest.

"They can click a button that will send the wheelchair to go back up the beach, and park and wait for them while they surf. When they're done surfing, they click another button, and the wheelchair comes back and picks them up," Knott explained.

It's not completely finished, but the road doesn't stop here.

"Proof of concept, and it's going to continue to be worked on next year, so we're really excited to see where it goes," Knott added.

All in an effort to make surfing even more accessible for people with disabilities.