Mr Tan Ban Ho and his "hover-chair"

IN NOVEMBER 2016, we wrote about Mr Tan Ban Ho and his unique unicycle-wheelchair combination: Then, he used to ride his unicycle and push his dementia-stricken wife’s wheelchair when he took her outdoors. Singapore responded warmly to him at that time. Those posts reached some 65,000 people and garnered over 1,800 reactions, comments and shares on the Successful Ageing Singapore Facebook page and Mr Tan received some attention in the mainstream media too as a result.

Now, the former Institute of Technical Education electronics lecturer is putting his mechanical skills to good use again: He has merged a hoverboard with a wheelchair to create the “hover-chair”. His inspiration is to help wheelchair-bound seniors who have difficulty moving their manual wheelchairs with their hands.

Step and go: Mr Tan’s invention is a practical solution for those who experience difficulty in controlling a manual or motorised wheelchair.

The concept for Mr Tan’s latest effort is simple but practical. He had the two front wheels of a wheelchair replaced with a hoverboard. This modification allows the rider to easily manoeuvre the wheelchair by stepping lightly on the hoverboard's sensored pads and tipping his or her toes or heels accordingly.

hovercraft travel
Up or down slope? No problem. The “hover-chair” is easy to manoeuvre, even when going up and down a ramp.

During his demonstration, Mr Tan explained how his personal observations and experiences led him to create this hover-chair: “I noticed that many wheelchair-bound seniors struggle to push themselves using their arms as they don’t have enough strength. It happened to my daughter when she fell ill and became frail. I saw how her mobility was hindered. All these incidents inspired me to devise a solution to help people in wheelchairs move about easily… that’s how I thought of attaching a hoverboard to the wheelchair.”

hovercraft budget
Fast and affordable: It took Mr Tan less than a week and a budget of $250 to come up with this self-modified wheelchair.

Explaining that the hoverboard he used measures about 20cm across and fits the wheelchair perfectly, he added: “I used some aluminium blocks to attach the hoverboard to the wheelchair and added a PVC pipe below to prevent the board from spinning.”

Best of all, Mr Tan proves that inspired creativity need not take too much time or come with a flashy price tag. He said, with some pride: “It took me less than a week to complete this. In total, I spent less than $250… including the hoverboard!”

A closer look: Mr Tan demonstrates how his “hover-chair” works.

In fact, he revealed that he has more creative ideas up his sleeve and is already working on his next one. Watch this space!

Article published on: 21/3/2017