Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
July 30, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Go cart-like device redefining the concept of a wheelchair

autoXLR8R(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series spotlighting some of the entrepreneurs participating in the inaugural autoXLR8R in Middle Tennessee.)

Brandon Heller says he “kind of always subdued his entrepreneurial talents” until the autoXLR8R team came calling. Now, he’s fully engaged in taking a patented technology, developed by a Rogersville inventor, to market.

The Long Island, NY native and Lehigh University finance graduate came to Nashville when his employer – Deutsche Bank – decided to relocate his group to Jacksonville, FL. In essence, Heller decided to give entrepreneurship a try.

For a few months, he worked at The Entrepreneur Center and networked with people, a process that connected him with Chad Marcum. The latter’s family has been integrally involved in the creation of the autoXLR8R concept.

“We have an exclusive license for a power wheelchair that can retract onto itself,” Heller explained of the company named Amble Technologies. The wheelchair was designed by Ed Johnson, a machinist who fell out of his barn and was paralyzed in the accident.

“He was an avid outdoorsman who had lost his ability to take part in those activities,” Heller added. Instead of accepting his fate, Johnson invented what is now described as a “ground access wheelchair.”

“We’re redefining the term wheelchair,” Heller says, describing the device as similar to a go cart with a low center of gravity. “It can’t tip over which is a real concern.”

The go cart-like wheelchair enables a variety of functions, such as gardening, that are not possible with traditional models. Because of its various configuration possibilities, Heller says the device also allows users to extend their legs, which improves the individual’s circulation and alleviates pressure sores.

“When people see it, they never forget it,” Heller noted. Most important, however, is the improved quality of life that wheelchair users experience.

Even as he focuses on taking the existing version to market, Heller is also working to “reengineer it to reduce the weight.” The current model relies on two deep cycle marine batteries that weigh 60 pounds each.

“We’re exploring lithium ion batteries and considering graphene,” he says of options to reduce the weight.

Heller is also trying to get in front of as many potential customers, doctors and physical therapists to improve the wheelchair’s features.

“We’re thinking about a pediatric version,” he adds.

Heller will be presenting Amble Technologies at the autoXLR8R’s “Demo Day” on August 7 in Spring Hill.

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