UC Irvine biomedical engineering student Michelle Sangalang credits her senior design classes for helping her win a statewide business plan competition. She and her partner Andrew Ekelem, a UC Berkeley bioengineer alumnus, brought home the grand prize of $5,000 in their age category (18 to 27 year olds) in the Youth Entrepreneurship Program’s Boost Business Plan Competition.
Sangalang and Ekelem attended high school together. Their business is called Chariot Mobility, and its focus is to make the best in-class customized manual wheelchair that uses an advanced propulsion system and materials. They are creating the first manual wheelchair to be maneuvered solely from a lever system.
“Our primary goal is to provide a chair that sustains the user’s health better than the traditional wheelchairs,” says Sangalang. “Our patent-pending lever system improves the stability of the wrist and shoulder, and enables the user to propel more efficiently than current push-rim wheelchairs. Ergonomic propulsion reduces the occurrence of repetitive strain injury, improving the quality of life for wheelchair users.”
Ekelem, a paraplegic, came up with the idea and turned to Sangalang for help in making it happen. “My senior design classes and the entrepreneurship class led by Goran Matijasevic stimulated my interest in the business side of technology,” says Sangalang. “I learned about the intricacies of bringing a product to market, and about the business plan competition.”
Sangalang says they’ll use the prize money to build a prototype of the chair, giving their business the “boost” it needs to move forward.