2005 Student Design Review Best of Category

Posted inID Mag


Caterpillar ScoopMorten WagenerUmeå Institute of Design, Sweden

The Caterpillar Scoop is a meticulously researched, rationally engineered, ergonomically appropriate response to an urgent need: safely transporting patients in and out of ambulances. Developed with emergency workers and other Swedish health-care officials for a course called Design for User Experience, Morten Wagener’s Scoop is meant to radically improve conditions for patients and paramedics alike.

Journeys to and from ambulances may involve multiple pieces of equipment, not to mention heavy lifting along awkward terrain and up and down stairs. Wagener carefully observed how patients are typically moved, and he kept his design within practical constraints provided by ambulance workers: They asked him to ensure, for instance, that they could carry a patient downstairs without incurring the full weight load.

The “Caterpillar” part of the unit is a set of treads that enables a single worker to move a patient safely downstairs (clutch friction guarantees that a heavy patient feels no weightier than a light one). The “Scoop” is a stretcher board that quickly detaches from the device and is made rigid and flat for lifting patients with potential spinal cord injuries. Via a series of gas springs, the Caterpillar Scoop can be transformed into other useful configurations, such as a wheelchair. The design is crisp and skeletal, with lightweight aluminum struts, rugged wheels, and padded seating material for buoyancy in water rescues.

The jurors were impressed with Wagener’s thorough efforts in tackling a real problem. “This is a sort of one-device-does-all for the rescue worker,” Henderson observed. “It’s like Dean Kamen’s stuff. Look at how well thought-out it is for a student project. It’s a home run.”

Q+A with Morten Wagener

How did you come up with the caterpillar form?The main objective of this project was to improve work conditions for ambulance staff while transporting a patient from accident scene to ambulance. The work situations currently require a lot of unacceptable hard lifting and maneuvering of the patient. The vision was to develop an innovative transporting unit that should introduce new, intuitive transfer methods and techniques, and make the patient feel more secure during transfer. So I tried to change the transfer method from carrying to moving, even on difficult terrain such as staircases.

Has the Caterpillar Scoop been tested in the real world, and do you have plans to manufacture it?I built different virtual and physical mock-ups, which were evaluated with the ambulance staff. Because of the limited timeframe, the finished result has not been tested in the real context. Ambulance stations from around Scandinavia have expressed interest, but a proper prototype still needs to be made.

Are there other products you would like to design for the health care industry?The work situations and demands on equipment are constantly changing, which makes it an interesting area. During research and analysis I found a number of different design opportunities. The patient transfer was chosen as the starting point for this project, but there were many other areas with great possibilities for improvement both for the staff and the patients.

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