A day at the lake for the disabled

We do a lot of useless hacks just for the fun of it so when we see something with purpose it’s pretty exciting. This hack turns any kayak into a motorized vessel that can be controlled by a quadriplegic person using a sip & puff interface. After the break you can see some clips of navigation and an explanation of the hardware.

[Mark's] system starts by adding outriggers to a kayak to prevent the possibility of the boat rolling over in the water. Each pontoon has an electric trolling motor attached to it that is controlled by an Arduino via a motor driver.

The Arduino takes navigational commands from a sip & puff controller. A straw in the operator’s mouth allows them to sip or puff for a split second to turn left or right. Longer sips or puffs control forward and reverse incrementally, up to a top speed of about 3.7 miles per hour. [Mark] incorporated an auxiliary remote control interface so that a safety observer can take control of navigation if necessary.

His build came in around $1300, a tiny cost if this makes kayaking available to several people each summer. Great job [Mark]!

[Thanks Justin]


  1. Michiel says:

    Great project! :D

  2. Kyle says:

    Now _that_ is a good use of technology.

  3. PlastBox says:

    Pretty cool, and great that someone is helping the disabled!

    Though one small criticism.. If I were a quadriplegic, I think the last place I’d like to be was in a kayak. Perhaps use something a bit bigger and sturdier, like a Steadyboat (those just can’t be tipped over).

    Anyways, cool project!

  4. Robert says:

    This is very creative, and I appreciate the intent behind Mr. Theobald’s design. I cannot, however, help but wonder about the safety of a quadriplegic person alone in a boat. I see that the design mitigates the risk of capsizing. What about the person falling out of the boat? Is this really safe?

  5. Drone says:

    This is wonderful. I just wish it was an open hardware-software project. Kudos anyway.

    Hey – XCore banner ads on HaD. Congratulations to all. XCore rocks…

  6. Pyrofallout says:

    If I was quadriplegic I would not be in something that could so easily tip. I doubt I would be able to swim very well.

  7. Coffeeman says:

    That is truly awesome! I might suggest a life-jacket though.

  8. tom says:

    A quadriplegic would probably have someone helping launch the boat, and would be close by in the event of something happening. The kayak uses outriggers too which tend to be very stable though.

  9. Skitchin says:

    @PlastBox: What’s wrong with your blog? It’s like a giant keyword spam or something.

    I’d be curious to see what sort of real world adjustments would be required for this(such as a modified chair with back and arm support, to keep from falling out as @Robert mentioned). I’d say the risk of capsizing has been pretty well addressed. Also, a passenger seat would be nice.

  10. rmaki says:

    This looks like a great set up. I can see this being used for various individuals. A Tandem boat might be better when working with a person who is quad, but still if a saftey boater is in place this will work if a only a single is available. As suggested, seat modifications may be needed depending on the individual. Great Work!

  11. Justin says:

    Mark has dealt with many of the issues that have been brought up, if you poke around his website a little more you’ll find designs for custom seats which provide support for quads. Safety is a top priority as well – there’s always a group of kayakers including safety paddlers. They stick to flat water for obvious reasons. The outriggers on this design provide an incredible amount of stability. Also, I’m sure most quads are willing to take on a small amount of risk when the payoff is a great deal of enjoyment and freedom – just like you or I might in any number of sports.

  12. Business101 says:

    I think it’s excellent when engineers think outside the box and apply their skills to developing items for the less abled. Just because someone might not be fully mobile, doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of adventure. Congratulations and kudos to the kayak’s designer for making it possible…

  13. CH says:

    > This hack turns any kayak into a motorized vessel that can be controlled by a quadriplegic person

    ..Sitting on the shore, laughing manically…

  14. puddles says:

    It’s generally pretty difficult to flip a SOT (sit-on-top) kayak like the Ocean Kayak shown in this story. Many people use SOT as a platform to fish or dive off of. Having said that it is still tricky to help a quadriplegic person back on the boat, that’s for sure.

  15. Patrick says:

    By all means – the Disabled should have fun on the waters too.

    But, is it wise for a disabled person to board such a small craft all by his lonesome? If that sucker tips over – say good bye.

    Oh wait a tick….
    That’s what life jackets are for.

    Never mind…
    Enjoy yourselves.

  16. dan says:

    It’ll make a sweet wheelchair after the ice caps melt!

  17. blizzarddemon says:

    I say, if the guy gets a rush from it, why not? We’ve haven’t outlawed smoking yet have we?

    Besides, you can’t protect individuals from there own stupidity, just the majority from suing you. : P

  18. bob says:

    What is it with sit-on-top users not wearing PFDs (or life jackets if they’re paraplegic)? Cold water shock is a really stupid thing to die of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,449 other followers