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Paralyzed Student Uses Exoskeleton To Walk For First Time In Years

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Paralyzed Student Uses Exoskeleton To Walk For First Time In Years

Paralyzed student walks for first time in years using an exoskeleton…

For Rob Summers an electronic implant allowed him to take his first steps on over a decade. But implants are not widely available just yet, however there are other solutions that can help the paralyzed walk again, perhaps the most advanced and viable option being an exoskeleton.

And that’s exactly what UC Berkeley student, Austin Whitney, used so he could walk for the very first time in several years to accept his graduation certificate.

Whitney was left paralyzed from the hip down following a car accident before college. Determined to continue with his life, he continued studies. After being transferred to UC Berkley, a team of mechanical engineer students, who had already been working on exoskeletons, decided to make a cost effective model to help Whitney and possible many more after him, walk again.

The team managed to reduce the costs from an initial $90,000 spent on the first exoskeleton, to just $15,000 to make Whitney’s. The huge reduction in expenses make the exoskeleton much more affordable for commercial use, however some adjustments still need to be applied to make the device smoother.

Whitney suggests that ‘the machine’s feet needed to be flatter, the height should be adjustable and hand controls should have locks.’

Such stories are always heart moving and inspirational, but watching a young man struck down with life changing disabilities rise above them in front of friends, peers and no doubt enemies, makes the story all the more touching.

Almost everyone can relate to struggles on must endure to make friends, fit in and be accepted at school. And we’ve all seen how those less fortunate than ourselves end up with the rough end of the deal. Throw in the pressure of completing a degree and you’ve got a challenge that I’m sure would get the better of most of us.

So, all the more recognition goes out to Whitney for reminding us that determination is key in achieving your goals, and that the word impossible, just isn’t what it used to be.


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  1. Casey Chan: Thanks to an Exoskeleton, a Paralyzed Boy Got to Walk on His Graduation Day. Gizmodo, 05/16/2011.

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