The Discipline of Mechanical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is developing a quadriplegic Archery System, a device allowing a Quadriplegic to draw, aim and fire a compound bow.

Final-year Engineering students within the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering at UKZN, are researching and developing the concept of a Quadriplegic Archery System that has more unique features than common “para-friendly” archery systems.  Whilst a target-shooting archery system currently exists for paraplegics, one does not exist for quadriplegics.  The idea for the project came about when Mr Darron Tarr, Principal of John Wesley School, approached Professor Glen Bright (Mechanical Engineering, UKZN) with the concept of making archery an exciting sport for 25-year-old quadriplegic, Mr Clinton Eccles, an acquaintance of Tarr.

The engineering of this system will be unique for quadriplegics and is to be the hard work of students: Mr Tyrone Bright, Ms Lindelwa Dlamini, Mr Matthew Harcus and Ms Michaela Geytenbeek.  Under the supervision of Professor Sarp Adali, Mr James Collins and Professor Bright, researchers and lecturers within Mechanical Engineering, these students aim to further develop the archery system technology that already exists for both target-shooting paraplegic archery and quadriplegic hunting systems.

The concept of the design will allow a motor to draw the bow, which will then be locked in a taut position. Eccles will then aim the bow and then release it using a mouth-controlled quick release mechanism. Another arrow will automatically be reloaded. This process will take place whilst the system vibrates with the frequency obtained from Eccles’ heart rate. As Eccles concentrates and his anxiety levels alter, his heart rate will increase; simulating muscle fatigue which able-bodied archers experience.

Eccles became a quadriplegic in a serious car accident several years ago and is looking forward to being a part of this momentous project.  Students Bright, Dlamini, Harcus and Geytenbeek are working on this project as their final-year Mechanical Engineering project for 2018.

* Target-shooting is performed using either a compound or recurve bow. Compound bows have stiffer limbs than recurve bows. On a compound bow, the limbs are pulled by a series of levering systems consisting of cables and cam pulleys. Alternatively, the limbs on a recurve bow curve back inwards, resulting in the string lying flat against the limbs at each end.

Words: Prashina Budree

Photograph: Asok Rajh