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Hot wheels: who can invent a better solar-powered wheelchair?

People with celebral palsy were asked for ideas, as part of World Cerebral Palsy Day, for things that could make their lives easier and better, with a solar powered wheelchair one of the top 3 ideas from hundreds submitted shortlisted for development – perhaps by you!

The world’s first World Cerebral Palsy Day was on the 4th of September 2012, earlier this year, with the day’s theme of “Change my world in 1 minute!” setting off more than a year-long series of activities to bring real change to the next World Cerebral Palsy (CP) Day on the 3rd of September 2013.

Throughout August and September this year, the World Cerebral Palsy Day site states that “people with cerebral palsy were given the opportunity to express what they needed to make their lives more independent or rewarding. Those ideas were posted here, and participants were asked to vote for the ideas they liked the best.

According to the site, we’re now up to Stage 4 in a five stage process, with the previous three stages being the posting of ideas, voting on those ideas, and then announcing the shortlist.

The announced ideas are, in order of their shortlisting (as seen at the site link above or below):

1. A fold-up motorised wheelchair
2. A documentary entitled "Cerebral Palsy in the 21st Century
3. A wheelchair with solar-power

At this fourth stage, announced today, the Day's organisers are inviting "social activists, researchers, inventors, and innovators to propose how they would make these shortlisted ideas become reality", also described as “people with the expertise and resources to create any of the three shortlisted ideas”, with those able to seriously and generously do so asked to register at the World PC Day site.

A total $25,000 prize pool is also on offer, and will be “shared across the three selected ideas to those that can best bring them to life”, meaning “one prize per category".

The end of March next year is the deadline for inventive new creations (a working prototype) to be submitted and reviewed, with a winner chosen for each idea that "successfully replicates the shortlisted idea" and announced on Friday the 19th of April, 2013, at the World CP Day site.

The site then notes that: "Progress on the commercial production and availability of the winning creations will be updated via the World Cerebral Palsy Day website, social media, print and broadcast media."

Aspirant entrant inventors, be they one-stop invention shops or part of a larger team, are advised to read the FAQ before and after pressing the pinking purple "I can invent this" button, with the application page protected by 'captchas' to prevent bots from their automated digital mischief.

Marcus Blease, World CP Day Panel member from Australia’s Cerebral Palsy Alliance and said in the media release that: “Of the many worthy ideas submitted online, we thought these three had the greatest potential to change the lives of the 17 million people around the globe living with cerebral palsy.

“In addition, these three ideas have potential to be commercially viable and one day be available on the open market place for people with cerebral palsy.

“People with cerebral palsy have played their part in coming up with potential ideas, now it’s up to the world’s best minds to turn these shortlisted ideas into reality.

‘This is a unique opportunity for creative minds from across the globe to come together and be a part of something truly life changing’, continued Mr Blease.

“Whether you are an engineer, a designer, a film maker, a business entrepreneur, or a university student or group, we want to hear from you if you think you have the skills to turn one of the shortlisted ideas into reality.

“This opportunity is equivalent to chart-topping artists finding stardom through a talent TV show, with the big exception that success on this stage will change the lives of 17 million people around the world living with cerebral palsy.”

Sounds like a very worthy cause that could certainly end up helping each Australian child born with cerebral palsy every 15 hours, the 17 million people around the world with cerebral palsy, and the 350 million people “who are closely connected to a child or adult with CP”.

The two wheelchairs would also help anyone that ever has the need for a wheelchair in fold-up form, solar-powered form or perhaps even both in the one unit!

Wouldn’t that be something that could help make the lives of people with wheelchairs so much easier and more convenient.

Some kind of easily deployable, or removable but wired solar panels are things that are in my mind, so the wheelchair doesn’t have to be in the hot sun to recharge.

Wireless solar panels to charge a battery, could that be done? Or retractable solar panel(s) of enough size and efficiency… and what about the batteries and their charge?

These are but some of the ideas that immediately flow through my mind…

You’d also want to check up on Google to see what others have already accomplished with solar wheelchairs, including a 200 mile trek in a solar power wheelchair, with large panels in 2010, created by a polio sufferer in the UAE, for ideas on how to create your own innovative new, smaller and sophisticated model!

In addition, the documentary would undoubtedly shine new light on the lives of those with cerebral palsy and would hopefully help to ignite even more creativity and new invention from across the globe to not only improve the lives of people with cerebral palsy in a genuinely meaningful way, but also to benefit everyone else that could use and would welcome the same technologies in their lives, too.

With so much interconnectivity and collaborative potential between the world’s billions of people, what a wonderful time to launch such a great initiative.

I truly hope this day and creative challenge finds the keen and inventive minds it seeks in the quest to make these three ideas a reality by March next year – who knows, it may well be you, from whichever corner of Australia or the globe you’re reading this from!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.