IntelliWheels offers mobility to wheelchair users

IntelliWheels is a new company run by three Illinois students in the durable medical goods industry and makes wheels that will fit wheelchairs for their users’ convenience. It will launch its first product this fall — the IntelliWheels Easy Push, or EP. IntelliWheels EP is a wheel add-on that allows more options with mobility and the set of gears that adds a 2-to-1 gear ratio, making it twice as easy to push.

In 2010, Scott Daigle and Marissa Siebel founded IntelliWheels. Siebel is an athletic trainer of the Illini wheelchair racing team and travels with the team to all competitions. She has known Joshua George for a long time from being a part of the racing team.

“Marissa and I would sit down and talk, throwing ideas at each other,” George said. “I have things I want do and she has hers. Then she said it’d be very cool to meet Scott. Marissa brought me in last summer to help out.”

“Josh has been such an important part of the company,” Siebel said. “His perspective as being a wheelchair user is very important — that we are not missing the mark in designing something that we think a wheelchair user wants, we have a wheelchair user tell us what they want.”

Daigle also works in Plastic Designs Inc., or PDI, in Paxton, Ill. The plastic injection molding company has become a supplier for parts of IntelliWheels. Daigle also spends three days a week, and sometimes nights and weekends, in Research Park for IntelliWheels. Daigle said PDI encourages his work with IntelliWheels.

Daigle graduated from the University with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering last December. He met Siebel three years ago in a motor control research laboratory on campus; they were researching how people push wheelchairs and what could be done to make it easier.

In 2010, IntelliWheels, as a company, participated in the Cozad New Venture Competition and won second place, netting an award of $5,000 and free office space in Enterprise Works in Research Park. It was also the recipient of the $1,000 prize for Best Social Venture.

In 2011, Daigle won a $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize for his devotion to IntelliWheels.

Siebel is one year away from graduating with a Ph.D. in kinesiology and community health.

As vice president of marketing in the company, she also uses her network in the community to promote the company.

“We are building a brand of the company,” Siebel said. “Even though we haven’t launched any products, the last two years have been getting our name out and getting the industry ready for us.”

George said he enjoyed working with Daigle and Siebel. George is the director of public relations for the company. Using his knowledge from his journalism degree, he said he plans to start blogging on IntelliWheels’ website to help promotion.

In the future, IntelliWheels also expects to launch different wheels to suit different needs for wheelchair users.