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Student Inventor Offers Helping Hand To People With Disabilities

February 10, 2009

Madison, WI - It all started with a planned trip to the wilds of Minnesota and a friend who might have been left behind. Student inventor Andrew Burton began thinking about designing a canoe that could be operated by someone who had only one functional hand.

Burton has entered his creation in the University of Wisconsin College of Engineering's "Creativity" competition. The One-Handed Canoe System features a set of devices that enables people with disabilities or physical limitations to paddle a canoe with one arm, and to carry the canoe more comfortably and easily during a portage. The whole process made him think about what a person with a disability faces, he says.

"Hey, how the heck do you tie your shoes? And we would think about trying to tie our shoes with one hand, and how difficult that would be."

Burton points out that safety was the chief consideration in the design.

"It attaches to the side of the canoe and then, from there, you can operate the canoe with one hand. We really needed to think about safety -- not from my point of view, but from somebody who would only have one hand."

If he wins the competition, Burton says he'll use the prize money to market the canoe. The contest is scheduled for Thursday's "Innovation Day" at the U.W.-Madison College of Engineering.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI