Rob Piper says he enjoys mowing his lawn so much he even considered starting his own lawn mowing business.
But about five years ago, the man from Windsor, Ont., was injured in a bicycle accident – he’s been using a wheelchair ever since.
Piper said he took to Facebook to say how much he missed it and was eventually linked with St. Anne Catholic High School’s technology program to find a solution.
“I’m so excited,” he said.
“The boys and girls did a great job. Tried out a few rows and… ready to mow the whole neighborhood.”
Mike Costello, who teaches manufacturing and technology at St. Anne, said he and a group of students researched ideas online for connecting a wheelchair and lawnmower, started developing some designs and built a few prototypes.
“We thought, ‘We’re going to build a metal-based lawnmower,’ but found out you couldn’t buy an electric lawnmower that was metal-based,” Costello said.
Windsor morning7:57Grass mowing assistance
Eventually, Costello said, they were able to “chop away” several ideas on paper until one worked.
“So we had to go back to the plastic…it couldn’t support the wheels and the frame…so we decided to build the frame that would support the lawnmower itself, hold the lawnmower.”
The machine is an electric lawnmower that connects to an assistive device that allows Rob to remain in his seat.
Grade 11 student Jake Polewski said designing the machine was tricky, but it gave him a sense of accomplishment.
“To see that he (Rob) can have some independence in his life and do something for himself. I’m sure it makes him feel good.”
Jake said the wheels on their first prototype were too small and Piper’s wheelchair changed during the design phase – interrupting the way he got on the chair and added extra padding for under his feet.
Piper said when he first got behind the mower, he fought back tears.
“I cried inside but didn’t show it on the outside. I was so happy, so thankful that they did this for me.”