Startup company strives to improve wheelchair mobility
To say University of Wisconsin-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford is enthusiastic about the potential value of Procubed LLC to students, the university, and the region’s economy would be an understatement. The start-up mechanical engineering firm is settling into temporary space at the Ralph Jaeschke Solutions for Economic Growth (SEG) Center with plans to build a better wheelchair drive system. Those plans include valuable first-hand experience for a team of UW-Parkside students.
“Our wheelchair is better at going up steep angles than anyone else’s [design],” Procubed President Jim Maerzke told Ford as he explained the testing equipment the company has moved into Molinaro Hall. “We’ll be testing the stability of wheelchairs–testing current designs as a base for comparing our own design to theirs.”
Maerzke and fellow UW-Parkside graduate and Procubed partner Chris Baugher have set up test machinery that involves a series of ramps, pulleys, and levers to perfect the drive system of their prototype. A trio of student teams, led by Marketing Professor Peter Knight, is working with Procubed on engineering, business management, and the successful marketing of this better form of conveyance.
“Are you building the test equipment?” Ford asked Maerzke.
“Yes. There is no standard test equipment for determining the stability of a wheelchair design,” Maerzke said. “That’s good for us because that means we get to set the test standards.”
Earlier this year, Procubed was one of several small southeastern Wisconsin companies that received a Wisconsin Small Company Advancement Program (WiSCAP) grant from the WiSys Technology Foundation through UW-Parkside. The companies are conducting research and development on innovative new products and involving UW-Parkside faculty and students in their business and R&D efforts.
“This is going to be a unique experience for our students–people like Sean Flatley, Jose Castillo, and Wei Liu who were with us today,” Ford said. “When Procubed is successful, it would mean jobs for students like Sean, Jose, and Wei, and many other people in the area.”
Procubed is currently working from temporary space in the SEG Center. The company moves into its long-term R&D facilities in Molinaro Hall during spring semester.