Highly Commended 2023

Project Shift

Trystan Paderno / RMIT University

Project Shift- A prosthetic solution for amputee motorcycle riders

Project Shift explores how design can redefine the way lower-limb amputees approach motorcycle riding by developing an adaptable prosthetic solution. Prosthetics are not designed with motorcycle riding in mind and current motorcycle solutions for amputee motorcyclists fail to address the nuances of riding a motorcycle. Riding any motorcycle without limitation, test riding new bikes and swapping bikes with a mate are activities that are inhibited the moment a motorcycle needs to be modified. Project Shift adopts a holistic design philosophy that not only address the functional issues of riding but also the psychological inhibitions amputees are confronted with.

Design Brief:

The design brief revolved around one question, “how can design re-define the way amputee motorcycle riders approach motorcycling while also addressing the phycological recovery of an amputee?” The brief was realized after a near-tragic incident where I was t-boned on my motorcycle. The car missed my leg by millimetres and I was fortunate to escape without injury. After this accident the thought of how I would ride if I ever lost my leg lingered. It was never a thought of “if” I would ride, but an emotive inspiration of “how” I would ride. Research and personal interaction with amputees highlighted this is the case for a lot of amputee motorcyclists. Currently there are massive limitations in the technology that exists to get amputees back to riding. The outcome had to not only address these limitations but also aid the mental wellbeing and road to recovery of an amputee.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

The Project began by discarding any pre-conceived notion of what the solution could be and instead aimed to uncover as much knowledge as possible by immersing myself in the amputee community. Academic research was conducted to understand existing technology, biomechanics, biomimicry, recovery process, medical interventions, advancements and prosthetics. Alongside academic research a focus group of 21 amputee motorcycle riders from around the world was brought together to inform, guide, and provide insight into the life of an amputee motorcyclist. The 21 individuals were the heart and soul of the project and provided guidance for my design practice. A prominent design figure in the field of prosthetics was interviewed and used as a springboard to understand the role design must play in developing solutions for amputees.

Along side academic methods a tactile approach was taken to understand every little movement and interaction a motorcyclists has while riding. Body storming by riding motorcycles in controlled conditions while filming allowed me to document motorcycle-rider interactions and create a product design specification in preparation for concepting. Classic design methods such as journey mapping, interviews, ethnography were all implemented to leave no stone unturned. Once all this knowledge was condensed, sketching, rapid prototyping, writing code, and working with electronics all started to build the framework for how the leg would function. An iterative approach was taken, a design concept would be drawn, rapidly prototyped, and then tested. Kinks were ironed out and then the next iteration would replace it. Every iteration was presented to the focus group and improved upon until a final working prototype met not only the brief, but the focus groups vision for what a solution should be.

Design Excellence

The design itself isn’t just solving one problem, it's addressing the amputee experience as a whole whereby design is used as the catalyst to highlight and address the physical and mental impacts these people face. When an amputee loses a limb, they are not just learning to walk again, they are learning to mentally adapt to their new state of being and often time’s an amputee feels like they have lost not only a physical aspect of themselves but feels that they have lost a slice of their world and a large part of their future. This has a profound mental impact and while all this is going on society says “well we have this leg that will at least get you walking, but can be cost prohibitive, just to give you some of your life back”. We have great technology that gets an amputee back on their feet and operating in everyday life, but what's out there that’s giving an amputee back their sense of personality? their sense of expression? and allowing them to get back to their passions while exuding some self-expression.

This project isn’t just about a motorcycle, but instead intends to frame the bigger picture of how design has a critical role in not only creating products, but systems that address the physical and mental, bridging the disconnect and reintegrating these people so they can find a sense of normalcy. Through my research, I think this is best done by developing solutions for amputees that enable them to enjoy their passions and hobbies like they did pre-amputation, but this needs to be done cost-effectively. This is more than a leg for motorcycling and instead aims to show how design itself can empower individuals if done right.

Design Innovation

Project Shift addresses the current issues lower limb amputees face on motorcycles more holistically. Lots of Current solutions on the market require an amputee to modify their motorcycle and are quite costly. But then what happens when you want to test-ride a motorcycle? Or your mate gets a new Ducati and wants you to take it for a test ride to experience it? In short, you can’t! You are limited to riding your bike. Project Shift changes this with a prosthetic that is a fully adaptable leg meaning the user can adjust the leg for any motorcycle in a matter of seconds using the Project Shift app. This app adjusts the knee and ankle movements so that they are optimised for the motorcycle. Further more, users are able to put the leg in walk mode and using the flexible Achilles tendon and inbuilt spring they can absorb the shock of the natural human gait cycle.

The leg has 4 main electronically actuated motions. Upshift-Downshift: The ankle articulates up and down enabling the rider to shift through gears smoothly.
Knee extension and retraction: The leg can extend and retract the knee joint so that when a rider comes to a stop, they can place the foot on the ground and safely hold the bike upright without having to balance. This is also used when the rider gets off the bike to walk around.

A handlebar-mounted wireless remote with 3 buttons seamlessly controls the function of the leg without hindering rider focus.

Design Impact

Project shift aims to hand back independence to the amputee. This prosthetic has been developed based on a 3d scan of my leg for ethical reasons and is a representation of my expression. The intent is that every user will influence the aesthetic design of their leg. Having it be a direct expression of the amputee's personality and not a bolt-on piece of equipment that the amputee feels they should cover up. It's an accessory that the user is proud to showcase, a badge of honour.

Prosethics should be like clothes in that we dress based on our own personal expression and choose according to the occasion and activity. No one should go without the basic access to medical equipment that gives them their lively-hood back. Until there is such a time when technology is so advanced and affordable that we can accurately mirror the human leg, amputees need solutions that address their recreational pursuits and have an influence on how those solutions look and feel.

The leg has been designed so that the everyday user can access, learn and build their own Project Shift leg. It works with an amputee's existing cast that was done by a medical professional. It doesn’t intend to replace medical professionals but paves the way to exemplify how cost-effective solutions that don’t have a high barrier of entry can be developed, while also handing back independence to the amputee by allowing them to build their leg if they so choose. Just like motorcyclists, some buy top-of-the-line motorcycles while others buy the base model and others prefer to build it from the ground up with their own two hands.

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