Design Inspiration

Welcome to Helena’s personal website!

The team wanted to create this separate entity to allow her to access entertainment all in one place through her Tobii. We also recognized how much of a challenge it is for Helena to be outside in the bright sunlight: the glare on her Tobii impacts how the eye-gaze technology functions. With the Tobii system being a hugely important aspect of Helena’s life, the design goal was to enable her to fully engage with the system, regardless of her environment.


The team iterated through hours of ideas to identify a product concept that would be beneficial for Helena and her family, but that would be achievable within the time-frame. We saw need in the comfort of her wheelchair, ease of interaction with her friends and family, movement and freedom of expression, and support for her Tobii system.


Originally, we ran with an idea of small speakers for Helena that would play personal music for her without the use of earbuds. After checking back with her and her family, it was determined that there were other ways to focus our resources and energy. We went back to the drawing board, brainstormed and sketched, and began to prototype.


Prototyping consists of building a proof of concept product: demonstrating key functionalities and their success. In our case, we wanted to build something that would quickly and efficiently block variations in weather that would detract from the functionality of the Tobii system. We wanted to free Helena to communicate in all weather and lighting. Self expression and communication of complex thought is part of what makes us uniquely human. We firmly believe that all people should have the opportunity to express themselves.


While the prototype is functional, there is much work to be done regarding the form and features of the weather shade. We wanted to demonstrate the feasibility of building an overhang that can shed snow and rain, and block the sun. Further design would include a retractable feature, smaller, stronger supports, and removable fixtures to enable ease of addition and subtraction to the wheelchair. We would make the design sleeker, younger, and easier for Helena to control on her own. Ultimately, we would like the sunshade to be motorized and linked via Bluetooth to her Tobii, allowing her to control the shade through the system.


We wanted to thank you, Helena, and your family for giving us the opportunity to design for you! It was a wonderful challenge and we’re grateful to have met you and your family. We also like that you’re interested in science! If you ever want to talk about science with us or have ideas, we would be happy to hear them. Thanks, also, to Eleanor for visiting too!