CAMOSCA is an acronym that stands for ChAir Moving On the Stairs Completely Automatically. It is a “standard” electric wheelchair redesigned with auxiliary stems and wheels to cope with steps and stairs, even steep ones. When the step is encountered the wheels alternate with the auxiliary wheels. The two combined front pairs can be extended vertically towards the lower steps, the rear wheels, which are fixed, are combined with a mobile foot both horizontally and vertically. The project was developed by Andrea Dogliotti, a mechanical engineer, born in 1950, from Genoa, who has worked in management positions in plant engineering, logistics and consulting companies (he is on the board of directors of a high-tech multinational). Andrea and his project were the stars of Maker Faire Rome 2021. We met up with him to ask him a few questions.
How did the idea for CAMOSCA come about?
«The idea of building a wheelchair that moves on ladders, the CAMOSCA, was born several years ago. In 2004, two probes were launched on Mars that were supposed to last three months and after years they continued to survive to everyone’s amazement, one lasting 6 years and the other 14. I wondered why you could walk so comfortably on Mars but not climb a ladder on Earth if you had a problem with your legs, especially since we built the ladders ourselves. It is a question of restoring a fundamental freedom to so many people. But who is going to solve this problem? The engineers, of course. So I started thinking and studying the solutions that already existed. There are a lot of them, but they all have some major limitations. Almost all of them require a fixed installation or an assistant, and that costs money and limits freedom too much».
The CAMOSCA has the structure and dimensions of a normal electric wheelchair (it is based on a standard wheelchair, although very little is left of it), on the stairs it always stands “flat” for safety reasons, off the stairs it is as agile as any other wheelchair
Following the prototype…
«Now that I have succeeded in demonstrating that ‘it is possible’, we must move on to industrialisation. It will be challenging. You have to certify it, revise the design, which for the moment is quite artisanal, then produce it, then guarantee support. I hope that the presentation at Maker Faire Rome 2021 will be a good basis for making contact with those who will be able to take it forward. My support is assured».
How would you define yourself as a maker?
«I chose this challenge because I am an engineer, a mechanical engineer, who had always dealt with planning, management, logistics, but never with classic projects with calculations and drawings and steps in the workshop. I set up the project and then I found a wonderful workshop with an exceptional engineer who did the executive project and made the mechanics, which is very demanding. I had fun studying the sensors, the electronics, the programming. Every day a problem arose and I was able to study a new theme, from friction to interference between the environment and the sensors».
Most of my time went into setting up the automation, which is a true autonomous guidance system for the entire stay on the staircase: alignment to the staircase, identification of the steps, movement of the stems, constant realignment, rebalancing to absorb the operational tolerances at each step, especially the interference between all these functions
Why did you decide to bring your project to Maker Faire Rome?
«As soon as the wheelchair was developed, I took the opportunity of Maker Faire Rome 2021 with two objectives: one is to test the project’s approach with a wide audience, and in the Health section there was a really strong turnout of people directly involved, many in wheelchairs themselves, many who were interested on behalf of their relatives; the second objective is to start making CAMOSCA known in order to find people to start the industrialisation process with».
How would you describe your experience at Maker Faire Rome?
«The experience was largely positive. I answered a lot of questions (and received a lot of approval!). Above all, I was thrilled when a young girl, after having questioned me very competently about mechanisms and performance, sensors and surmountable steps, said to me from her wheelchair. “Thank you, thank you for thinking of us”. The interest and hope that I saw in so many eyes repaid me for all the hard work and gives me a very strong reason to continue my commitment to industrialisation».
What do you think of the location?
«The Gazometro complex is very interesting as a recovery of industrial archaeology and seems very suitable as an exhibition space, with the great advantage of being in an almost central area. It has the advantage that all the stands could be accessible by car. I have seen an excellent accessibility of the public, with the right balance between public and exhibition spaces. Good general organisation, with great kindness and helpfulness of all the staff, produced a very satisfying event for both the public and the exhibitors».
cover photo: makerfairerome.eu
Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition has been committed since nine editions to make innovation accessible and usable to all, with the aim of not leaving anyone behind. Its blog is always updated and full of opportunities and inspiration for makers, makers, startups, SMEs and all the curious ones who wish to enrich their knowledge and expand their business, in Italy and abroad.
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