Camera Supports for a Boy with Limited Reach

Designers: Alex Li, Christal Chow and Irem Mertol

Supervising Professor: Larry Bohs


Two camera supports were developed to allow our client, a 10 year-old boy with TAR syndrome, to take pictures while using his powered wheelchair or ambulating. Since he has limited arm reach, the devices enable him to use a tripod and microphone boom system to easily position a camera both horizontally and vertically, while taking pictures with a remote. Both devices are unobtrusive and easily detachable so the client can take the devices wherever he goes.

The Camera Supports allow the client to take pictures easily and independently. The client’s mother commented, “This device gives him a sense of independence and normalcy, which is fantastic.” About pictures he took at Disneyworld and the Duke Gardens, the client said, “I like being able to be like the other people, even the adults, who are taking pictures. It made me feel like I was a professional photographer. I think my pictures were better than some of the ones my parents and grandparents took.”

The camera wheelchair support (Figure 1, left panel) includes a base made of ½’’ black high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Two knob screws firmly secure the base on top of the left armrest of the client’s wheelchair. A commercial microphone boom threads into the front, center portion of the base. A 3/8’’ threaded rod, bent at a 90o angle, attaches the end of the microphone boom. A ¼-20 threaded rod is threaded into the top of the 3/8” rod, providing the proper attachment for a commercial tripod head (Digital Concept 7). The threaded rods are secured with thread lock compound.

A custom camera case provides a robust attachment for an aluminum lever, which the client uses to point the camera. This camera case, built for the Pentax T10 camera, consists of six pieces of 3/8” thick Delrin. The back of the camera case includes a rectangular cutout portion (3.5” x 1.75”) for the LCD display screen as well a cutout (0.375” x 0.5”) for two buttons to change the mode of the camera. The front of the camera case includes a 2” diameter circular cutout for the lens. The front piece also includes a 2.625” x 0.625” rectangular cut-out in the upper left corner for flash and remote sensor access. The bottom piece includes a ¼-20 Helicoil that threads onto the tripod head, and a cutout to allow easy access to the battery and memory card compartment. A 2.5” x 1” rectangular HDPE piece with a 0.5” hole in the center is screwed into the side of the camera case. The aluminum lever fits into the HDPE hole and is secured with a 10-32 thumbscrew. The lever is 15’’ long with black tennis grip and a racquetball on the end added for comfort. The inside of the camera case is lined with foam padding to hold the camera securely and reduce vibration.

The camera belt support (Figure 1, right panel) is constructed from a back-support belt (McGuire-Nicholas), which fits the client comfortably. A sheath pocket (Fiskars) is used as a holder for the microphone boom. This pocket attaches to the support belt at any desired location using the clip on its rear side. The microphone boom is sewn tightly into the Sheath Pocket. To provide additional support for the microphone boom, a rifle sling (Yukon) attaches to the vertical portion of the boom using a bike helmet buckle. This arrangement allows the neck strap to easily detach from the boom. A ¼’’ threaded rod is attached to the end of the microphone boom and bent 90o to screw into the bottom of the camera case.

Because the sensor for the remote is located on the front of the camera, while the client uses the remote from the rear, a mirror is attached to the camera case to reflect the signal. A string attached to the remote prevents the client from misplacing or dropping the remote. In addition, a pointer is affixed to the string to help the client press camera buttons. The Pentax T10 camera was chosen for its large touch-screen display and its ability to operate remotely. Cost of parts for the camera wheelchair support was approximately $325 and cost of parts for the camera belt support was approximately $300.

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