Meet Ben Finan, a recent University of Colorado Boulder graduate redesigning mobility walker brake technology!
Ben earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Plus with an emphasis in Mechanical Engineering and a concentration in Business and Entrepreneurship. While earning his degree, Ben was also a lead teaching assistant for a variety of engineering courses.
Ben found entrepreneurship to be extremely exciting, specifically the mindset of facing problems head-on to discover new solutions and innovations. His senior year, Ben further explored his entrepreneurial interest and utilized the ESCEND program where he met fellow students Ashley Atkins, Julia Beattie, Evan Hanson, Brandon Cyrus, and Tiana Decolati, who shared his interest in improving the mobility market. The group banded together to form Delta Horizons, a cross-campus team from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Leeds School of Business focused on developing a safer wheeled mobility walker, the Peace of Mind Walker!
About Delta Horizons
In the Spring of 2022, the Delta Horizons team formed within ESCEND, a program that provides engineering students with the tools and resources necessary to turn their ideas into reality. Each student had close personal ties with mobility assistance users. Through research, they identified the dangers of current four-wheeled walkers that require user input to apply the breaks. Common incidents occur when an individual loses balance and falls on the walker, causing it to slip out from under them. Additionally, the team identified a common theme of four-wheeled walkers rolling away when unattended.
To address these issues, Delta Horizons created a specialized mechanical brake system known as the Peace of Mind Walker. The system adapts to users and automatically engages the breaks when the walker is not in use to prevent it from rolling away. The Peace of Mind Walker also recognizes when excess force is applied and activates the breaks to stabilize the walker for users.
Ben comments on its design,
“This new braking system removes the need for user input and directly addresses key safety concerns found in wheeled walkers without sacrificing mobility benefits”
With the support of Professor Dan Riffell and advisors Andrew Morton and Dario Atallah, the Delta Horizons team continued to grow. They created various prototypes, one of which was presented to engineers at the 2022 Senior Design Expo. The Delta Horizons team won first place in the Mechanical Engineering Department and earned a Distinction in Design for their Peace of Mind Walker.
After success in the Senior Design Expo, Delta Horizons went on to compete in CU’s annual New Venture Challenge, where they made waves in the cross-campus pitch competition.
Experience with New Venture Challenge
New Venture Challenge (NVC), also known as CU Boulder’s entrepreneurial 'flight simulator, brings together entrepreneurs across campus. Participants have the chance to build a startup through entrepreneurial events and programming, community support, mentorship, and ultimately, funding.
Ben called his experience with NVC a “Whirlwind”. Throughout the competition, the Delta Horizons team worked hard to develop a prototype, expand their business, and prepare pitches for both the main and cross-campus competition. Ben continues,
“Being involved with the NVC process helped our venture develop. The cherry on top of our NVC experience was winning first place in the cross-campus competition with a prize of $5,000. It was a special moment for the team and proved to ourselves that we were on the right track.”
In addition to funding, Delta Horizons found the overall process of participating in NVC to be extremely helpful. They noted that the various workshops expanded their business knowledge, and the access to previous pitches recordings assisted them in framing their message. Ben adds,
"Beyond the lessons and skills gained from the NVC resources, actually pitching a product is a massive step for any venture. At least for me, I had so much doubt and was struggling with imposter syndrome going into my first pitch. But once the bandaid was ripped off, I was able to gain confidence and keep honing the pitch. A successful pitch needs a great venture and the confidence to explain it. Pitching a venture is an important part of growing that idea."
Ben has found the development of the Peace of Mind Walker to be incredibly difficult. He comments,
“We are addressing a safety concern, so much time and effort must be put into developing a product that works seamlessly and truly does improve the safety of wheeled walkers. The margin for error in our design is small.”
Fortunately, the Delta Horizons team has received large amounts of support and guidance in navigating these obstacles.
Ben provides the following advice,
“For current students considering an idea or venture, I would advise utilizing the campus resources and pursuing the idea. CU has an amazing entrepreneurship program and many resources for students of all majors. Take the leap, and see where the idea takes you!”
If you are interested in participating in the upcoming 2023 NVC, check your eligibility and monitor the New Venture Challenge website for updates. Follow along with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship’s social media accounts for information on all entrepreneurial activities and events!