By John Christopher Aquino, Nijel Matthew Aquino, and Jonas Ryan Nitura
With innovation and Filipino ingenuity in mind, three senior high school students from Angeles City, Pampanga invented the JuanWheel—a solar-powered wheelchair made from local bamboo for persons with disabilities (PWDs).
The JuanWheel is an invention that Angeles City Science High School students Williann Pangilinan, Allen Siopongco, and Iñigo Cruz made for the disabled persons lacking mobility, while also harnessing solar power technology, along with the use of biomass materials in its engineering and design.
The incoming 12th graders said that the main difference of JuanWheel with other wheelchairs is the battery life which is double that of the traditional electric wheelchair sporting a battery life of 14.37hrs with a mileage of 6.13 miles, compared to that of the traditional AC powered chairs that run up to 7.34hrs for 16.38 miles.
“JuanWheel itself is automated through a hybrid-powered system using solar and AC inputs and outputs. In addition to that, it is made out of bamboo na hindi po siya nagha-harm sa environment and it makes it a lot cheaper to make,” said Pangilinan in an interview with Manila Standard.
With the wheelchair’s development that started during their 9th grade, the students strived to make improvements to their current prototype, such as the improved backrest and upgrades to the front wheels of the chair, done in cooperation with the disabled from the home for the aged in Bahay Pag-ibig in Pampanga for feedback.
The main inspiration for JuanWheel came from Cruz, one of the group’s inventors, who saw his late grandmother struggling every day with her mobility. Because of this, they also wanted to help the disabled from the general public.
The group also added that they partly took inspiration from the BamBike, another Filipino invention that used bamboo.
“Traditional wheelchairs in today’s era are manually-operated and made of steel, so one time we were on a road trip, we saw a bamboo bike and that was one of the inspirations as well,” Siopongco added.
Additionally, the students’ adviser, coach, and mentor Lolita Bautista added that what makes the JuanWheel stand out is that while it caters to Filipinos with special needs, the invention is uniquely Filipino due to the use of a bamboo frame, hence the “Juan” in the name of the wheelchair.
The students and the JuanWheel garnered multiple awards as they won first place in the DepEd Science and Technology Fair, division and regional levels in 2019. Additionally, they were national finalists in National Science Fair 2019 and were awarded the Best Presenter Award. They also virtually represented the Philippines in the Global Youth Science and Technology Bowl held in Hong Kong last June 19, winning first place in the physics and engineering category.
JuanWheel is planned to be patented locally by the students to protect its design according to the students.
Moreover, the prototype the students used for the inventions was around P28,000, but the potential mass production cost would be around the P17,000-21,000 price range compared to the traditional electric wheelchair which will cost around P60,000-100,000.
The students and the JuanWheel were recognized and supported by the DepEd Division of Angeles City, with its funding provided by DOST-PCIEERD (Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development) through the Young Innovators Program granted last 2019.