Montes' new tricycle. Montes' new tricycle.

This device will help Rosario get to school

Students go to aid of 14-year-old paraplegic from their hometown in Oaxaca

Three college students originally from Putla Villa de Guerrero, Oaxaca, traveled to Mexico City and Puebla to continue their studies but they’ll soon return to their hometown, taking with them an electric tricycle for a young paraplegic student.

Brothers Ricardo and Luis Sanjuan Ramírez, who are studying engineering at a National Autonomous University (UNAM) campus in Cuautitlán, state of México, were approached by preparatory school friend Junnuen Guevara, who is studying to be a physiotherapist at Western University in Puebla.

She told them about Rosario Montes, a 14-year-old secondary school student from their native Putla who had had to abandon her studies because her paraplegic condition made it nearly impossible to travel to school by herself.

Montes was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord fails to develop properly. An operation 28 days after her birth corrected the spinal condition but caused paraplegia, a paralysis that affects all or part of the torso, legs and pelvic organs.

Getting to school, therefore, was a challenge.

After hearing the story, the two brothers drew from their engineering studies, one in electromechanics and the other in communications systems and electronics, to work with Guevara to develop a unique tricycle that combines three devices in one: a standing frame, a wheelchair and an electric vehicle, all of which can be used separately or combined.

“The best thing is that it was designed to withstand the conditions of a place like Putla, where it rains frequently and the user has to deal with either dust or mud every day,” explained the Sanjuan brothers, whose tricycle is not only custom made for Chayito, as they affectionately call Montes, but also 60 to 70% cheaper than any similar commercially available product.

A standing frame like the one designed for Montes can cost up to 120,000 pesos (US $6,750), and the vehicle an additional 70,000 pesos. The Sanjuan design cost only 40,000 pesos, which the three friends raised to complete the eight-month project.

The brothers also kept in mind the need for ease of repairs and durability of their tricycle. “I’m talking about a place where an electrical resistor costs three times more than in Mexico City, and where shipping takes weeks . . . we assessed all this from the beginning,” said Ricardo Sanjuan.

Putla Villa de Guerrero

The resulting vehicle can deal with the rough terrain of the dirt roads in Putla, and can climb grades of up to 20 degrees. The standing frame will allow Montes to assume a standing position by herself or to travel the one-kilometer stretch between her home and her school, or the five kilometers to the health center where she receives therapy.

The tricycle is now ready to go but first it will be presented by the proud Sanjuan brothers at their school, where they want to motivate other students to get involved in this kind of initiative.

After leaving Cuautitlán, the tricycle will stop in Puebla where Guevara will present it as part of her thesis before carrying on to Putla.

The Sanjuan brothers are not only eager to travel back to their hometown but also to show their design to the world, making it open source and allowing anyone to make use of it.

“In a few weeks we will take the device to the Sierra Sur [region] of Oaxaca, but what we really want is for it to reach the entire world,” said the brothers.

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