People can do incredible things, especially when it comes to their children. One San Diego father is now striving to make the world an easier place for those with disabilities by building an open-source power chair.

The Diagnosis

Software engineer Dylan Vaughn received the tragic diagnosis in 2013. His eldest son, at just four years old, had a progressive form of Muscular Dystrophy called Duchenne’s. This rare genetic disease predominantly affects boys, causing muscle weakness and degeneration throughout the body, including the heart and respiratory systems. Most sufferers require a wheelchair by age 12.

“After the shock of diagnosis,”  says Vaughn, “I realized that one way I could try to help Connor, and others, was to bring all this new technology into the space of people with disabilities.” 

The Project

Vaughn then made a decision, “I wanted to fill an unmet need in the community for an affordable, easily built power chair.”  

In 2016, he began creating different prototypes with ease and accessibility in mind. The chairs are made with PVC pipe, Arduino, and other parts available at any hardware store and Amazon.com. The idea behind this endeavor is not to create a product that people could buy. The goal is to design a reliable, functional open source power wheelchair for anyone to make themselves.

Commercially made power chairs run anywhere from $3,000-$20,000. For individuals and families coping with high medical costs, saving those thousands of dollars is a huge relief.

Now on its fourth prototype, Vaughn and his team are continuing to enhance and refine the design and striving to make it more reliable and effective.

At Maker Faire San Diego

Vaughn will be presenting his latest version at Maker Faire San Diego, October 6-7, in Balboa Park. Attendees can see the device in action and talk directly to its makers.

“We are so excited to share the PVC Chair project at the San Diego Maker Faire this year,” Vaughn says. “Maker Faire is a place we can connect with the many different groups of people who are connected to this project—makers, health care professionals, and people with disabilities as well as be inspired ourselves by all the other great projects on display.”

open source power chair - Vaughn family.

Dylan Vaughn, son Ryan, and Jinxy.

We are honored to have Vaughn joining us and hope you’ll check out his incredible project October 6-7.