Technical Consultant Erhan (29) studied Electrical Engineering at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences with Embedded Systems as a minor. Even as a child he was interested in how electronic devices worked. At secondary school he became more interested in software development, but decided to begin with the hardware. His way of thinking then was, “You can’t start building a brick wall without knowing how to lay a floor, so we’ll start with the basics…”
Hacking a wheelchair
“I live with my twin brother Orhan and my mother. My brother and I were born prematurely which, in Orhan’s case, led to cerebral palsy. This means that he isn’t able to walk. He is confined to a wheelchair and is dependent on others 24/7.
To help Orhan in daily life get around more easily, I bought a second-hand electric wheelchair on the internet. After the first test drive, it was soon clear, however, that he wasn’t able to control it with the joystick it had (because of his limited hand co-ordination). Something had to be done. Seeing as how I’d studied Electrical Engineering and I love a challenge, I began to think about how I could make it possible for him to steer the wheelchair better.
Because of safety rules, i decided to simulate the joystick signals with my own electronics (and software). I first recorded the joystick-communication by means of an oscilloscope, then I deciphered it, and then, with the help of my own hard and software, I was able to produce the same signals. The result was that I was able to control the wheelchair with my own electronics without the joystick.
At the same time, I was also making mechanical drawings and designs to replace the upper part of the wheelchair. With the help of an external party, I was finally able to get a complete stainless steel upper part that had been specially designed and produced for someone who had cerebral palsy. The most important aspect of controlling the wheelchair are the two separate, sprung foot plates (with switch) and the head support with flippers (switches) to the left and right.
Once the mechanical and electronic solutions were combined. Orhan was able to control the wheelchair well with the foot and head controls.”
“Ultimately, I want to control the electronics I’ve developed via the CAN bus so that I can hang other nodes in the circuit, like a Kinect camera, which can look out with the user to avoid objects or take control and stop the wheelchair. I also want to be able to take control of the wheelchair remotely by means of an Android-based smartphone, so that I can help Orhan if the wheelchair gets stuck, for example. I’d then return control to him. Even more things can be devised in this way, it’s about setting up a modular system.”
Recording special moments to be looked back on later with pleasure
“Something else that I like doing in my spare time is photography. Making portraits or taking street photos or photomacrographs are what I like best. The first thing you have to learn is to switch the automatic mode of your camera off. Being able to manually set the ISO, exposure, aperture, etc., gives me more freedom and control to really achieve the results that I have in mind. Taking pictures with a RAW format offers more possibilities when developing pictures, which is an art in itself. I take digital photographs, but I print them out now to go in albums. I like to bring back memories at get-togethers with family or friends by looking at photo albums. I wan to do more photography in the future; it is a relaxing hobby. And who knows, maybe it’s possible to combine it with my work.”