Phil Booth is a Master's student and innovator at Wintec's Centre for Research and Applied Innovation. Phil grew up spending time in the garage with his Grandad, inventing all kinds of things from engineering equipment for the local sawmill, to the very first concrete tilt slab roundhouse. Problem-solving and innovation comes second nature to him after spending so much time around his entrepreneurial grandfather.
At 22 he broke his neck playing rugby, leaving him a C5/C6 tetraplegic with no feeling at all from his shoulders down and no hand function. Rehabilitation became the focus of his life. His first big goal, which seemed simple, to push a manual chair from the lino onto the lounge carpet, took 12 months of training with Alistair Richardson at Les Mills to achieve.
Next, he jumped at the chance to undergo an operation that would give him enough triceps muscle function to achieve his ultimate goal of driving a vehicle. After the operation, he found himself on a turning bed for six weeks with both arms in casts. He looked like he had been crucified and as it just happened to be Easter, he had plenty of jokes thrown his way. After the casts came off he had braces on his arms which were adjusted 10° each week, until he could scratch his face again. An entire year dedicated to the seemingly simple goal of using the hand controls of a vehicle.
Equipped with skills and knowledge from life experiences, Phil recently completed his Postgraduate Certificate and is now embarking on a Master’s degree in Transdisciplinary Research and Innovation. His project centres around solving beach accessibility for people with limited mobility and wheelchair users. With a family of his own, a wife and two young daughters, Phil’s Masters focus is working on a prototype wheelchair which allows a disabled person to interact with their family on a quintessential Kiwi day at the beach.