Product Design students help athlete compete in Paralympics

Final year Product Design students have helped a Sussex skier compete in the Paralympics which started in PyeongChang on Friday (9 March).

James Whitley, 20 and the grandson of the former Northern Ireland prime minister James Chichester-Clark, was born without hands. Reconstructive surgery was partially successful, leaving him with some fingers but limited feeling.

James, from Eastbourne, skis with poles but runs into difficulties when pushing through start gates. That’s where researchers come in.

Special arm guards were designed and made by the University’s design consultancy ‘Brighton Product Lab’ which provides teaching, research and consultancy in engineering, product design, product development and testing, technology and creativity.

It is run by Cathy Grundy, Senior Lecturer and Researcher in the School of Architecture and Design. She led a team of final-year Product Design students on the project: “We were approached by James’ mother Tara to make the guards and we used ground-breaking 3D scanning technology to scan James’ arms. We then used computer-aided-design to design the guards aerodynamically to James’ dimensions and to ensure a snug fit.

“The guards were then 3D printed in a tough acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic and we used carbon fibre to build up further layers on top. Carbon made the product light and super tough, as well as making it look cool.”

Product Design Arm Guards

The guards are primarily used to protect James’ forearms as he hits slalom poles out of the way. Before, James had been using plaster cast and had injured himself as they didn’t absorb the shock so well. Hopefully this new guard will protect him better.

The guards have been approved for the Paralympics and Cathy said: “The students all contributed fantastically to the design and manufacture – hopefully we will see the guards being used as we cheer James on.”

One student in the team, Benjamin Taylor, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to not only test our knowledge of user-centred and accessible design but also our prototyping skills. We worked with new materials and processes, and together as a team achieved something to be very proud of.”

James will be competing in the Slalom, Giant Slalom, SuperG, Downhill and Super Combined.




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