University of California Berkeley student Austin Whitney was paralyzed in a drunk driving accident after his senior year of high school. As a college student majoring in history and political science, he helped a team of engineers at the school develop an exoskeleton designed to safely and affordably help wheelchair-bound people regain their ability to walk. On Saturday, the device was tested at Berkeley's graduation ceremonies, when he walked across the stage for the first time since his accident.
The team of scientists who worked to develop the technology that helped Austin walk say that they may be able to help many wheelchair-bound people regain the ability to walk within a few years and at an accessible price. Similar existing technology costs $90,000 or more. This model will set users back about $15,000, which is about the same price as some motorized wheelchairs.
The machine is named "Austin."
According to the San Francisco chronicle, all 15,000 people in attendance rose to their feet and cheered when Austin walked across the stage.
As Whitney rolled onto the stage, the stadium grew quiet. Someone placed the walker in front of him and Whitney grasped the handles, pushed himself into a standing position and pressed a switch.
His right leg moved forward. Then his left. Whitney paused and steadied himself. With an audible click, his right leg took another step. Then his left. One more right. Another left. He was facing the chancellor, eye to eye.
The men shook hands as the audience erupted in cheers. And they hugged, as the announcer called out the final graduate's name.
I'm not crying; you're crying.
Exoskeleton Lets UC Berkeley Grad Take A Huge Step [SF Chronicle]