Foot Operated Camera System

Designers:  Eric Lai, Anthony Lau, and Tom Rose
Client Coordinator:  Luanne Holland, Durham County Schools
Supervising Professor:  Larry Bohs

The client was an eight year-old boy with cerebral palsy, who had limited fine motor control in his upper extremities, but good control of his feet. A wheelchair-mounted, foot-controlled camera system was developed to allow him to take digital photos unassisted.  The system consists of a digital camera with panning mechanism, an external LCD display, and foot pedal controls for shutter release and panning.  The completed system is removable and easy to operate, and gives the client the ability to take digital pictures independently.

How this project helped
The device will allow our client to take pictures unassisted. His mother commented that she liked “how it’s got a large range of motion” and that “he can take pictures of just about anything he wants”.  The system’s portability will allow the client to use it in classrooms and on field trips, thereby increasing his level of interaction with classmates and family members.

The Foot Operated Camera System (Figure 1) consists of a commercial digital camera (Olympus Stylus 300) with shutter remote, a 5” LCD screen, a commercial tilting mechanism with remote (Bescor MP-101), and a custom mounting apparatus for attaching the devices to the client’s power wheelchair.

The camera’s remote control was replaced with a large switch shaped like a dog’s paw (Radio Shack), which was attached to the left footrest of the client’s wheelchair with Velcro.  The camera’s 1.5” LCD screen was too small for the client to use effectively, so we attached a 5” LCD screen and associated battery compartment in easy view, using a gooseneck attachment clip from a microphone boom stand.

The camera was attached to the top of the tilting mechanism, which was attached to a custom mounting arm using a tripod mount.  The tilting mechanism allowed the camera to rotate +/- 90° horizontally and +/- 15° vertically, and its remote control was attached to the right footrest using Velcro.

A mounting arm was constructed from 5/8″ diameter copper tubing, painted black.    A custom clamp was machined to connect one end of the copper tubing to the horizontal side bar of the wheelchair.   This clamp functioned like a sandwich, with two recessed openings for clamping the wheelchair side bar and the copper tubing together. A hole was drilled through the clamp and copper tubing, through which a quick release pin inserted, to secure the support structure yet allow for easy removal. After testing, a series of holes was drilled in the copper tubing to allow the camera and LCD to be placed farther from the client as he grows.

Removing the system from the wheelchair involves removing the spring pin from the mounting clamp, sliding the mounting arm from the clamp, and removing the foot controls from their Velcro pads.  The client’s parents can mount or remove the system in less than two minutes. Figure 2 shows the client using the device.

Cost of parts for the Foot Operated Camera System was about $700.

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