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Cal Poly engineer creates adaptive technology for people with disabilities

Evan Lalanne, founder of Adapted Mobility, poses in front of a green backdrop.
Evan Lalanne, founder of Adapted Mobility. Photo by Ruby Wallau. Graphic by Lyndsey Park.

2022 Summer Accelerator Spotlight: X-Adapt

Evan Lalanne is working to increase accessibility for people with disabilities by adapting mobility devices. Lalanne, a manufacturing engineering fifth-year, developed a modification for an electric unicycle that allows for seated riding by adaptive users. It has greater mobility and capability than most wheelchairs, allowing riders to access environments with tougher terrain, like hiking trails.

Lalanne initially began modifying mobile devices for personal use. The first device he modified was a hoverboard, creating wooden blocks that allowed him to ride it with his wheelchair. The next iteration of that device was a modified electric skateboard. 

Lalanne said the skateboard was “a cool concept, but the practical applications for it were pretty minimal.”

“The next step was asking: How could I apply that same idea, but make it work so that it can benefit more people?” Lalanne said.

The answer came in the form of a modified electric unicycle, which Lalanne is now looking to bring to market. He is working with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) to scale his business, X-Adapt, formerly Adapted Mobility.

Lalanne initially discovered the CIE through Introduction to Entrepreneurship (BUS 310), a course he took as an elective.

“I ended up loving the class,” Lalanne said. “My background is in engineering, so all the business stuff is a little bit of uncharted territory for me, but I’m throwing myself in and seeing what I can do.”

Introduction to Entrepreneurship led Lalanne to participate in the CIE’s Innovation Quest (iQ), a prototyping and business plan competition in which Cal Poly students pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win thousands of dollars in funding.

Lalanne pitched X-Adapt, presenting an early version of his business plan as well as a prototype of the modified electric unicycle. With that pitch, he won the first place prize of $15,000.

“Innovation Quest was kind of a scramble,” Lalanne said. “I started with an idea and had to kind of build a business model around it. Doing that was certainly something out of my area of expertise, but thanks to the resources of the CIE, I made it work.”

Lalanne is now participating in the CIE’s Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.

Lalanne currently has a workable prototype of the modified electric unicycle, but throughout the summer, he will be developing a second prototype that is more consistent with the manufacturing techniques that will be used on production versions of the product. He also plans to start reaching out to potential partners.

“I think a big part of the business is going to be getting people past that initial barrier of entry, feeling like they can’t ride the device,” Lalanne said. “I think a great way to make it more accessible for people is going to be to partner with adaptive recreation programs.”

Lalanne hopes to create partnerships with programs that can provide the necessary training for potential consumers to grow comfortable with and confidently use his product prior to purchase.

Although the modified electric unicycle is currently Lalanne’s only product, he hopes to eventually expand X-Adapt to offer “a series of adaptations that can achieve a variety of different tasks, all centered around making the world more accessible for people with disabilities,” he said.

“That can be as simple as something like a hand-mount for a toothbrush — something incredibly simple that’s very different from our initial pathway, but still achieves that Northstar goal for the company,” Lalanne said.