I Am (or want to become) Iron Man

This is my latest project, and I need some help! Hit the jump to smell what I'm stepping in...

It’s long been a desire of mine to build something that could practically allow me to get around on rough terrain without the need of tank treads or an expensive prosthesis.  Up until now, anytime I’ve needed to ambulate across some rocky terrain or up a flight of stairs, I’ve hopped off of my skateboard (or sometimes wheelchair) and carried myself on my hands. For short distances, this has always worked well, has and allowed me to access every location from high-alpine mountains in Montana, to back country roads in Romania. But a conflict is looming now as I enter my mid-twenties: growing travel ambition coupled with increasingly sore and achy shoulders. In order to solve one, typically you have to compromise on the other – and I’ve never been a big fan of compromising ambition.

Just like many with a disability, it’s often the ancillary conditions that develop alongside whatever body part you’re missing that can cause the real health issues. For me, that means wearing out my hands, back, or shoulders before I’ve reached my thirties. Most of this comes from the raw impact inflicted on my body every time I take a step with my arms. Punching your hands and tailbone into the ground – while effective – isn’t necessarily the best way to get around. I’ve been warned about this by almost every doctor I’ve ever spoken with – from GP’s to orthopedic surgeons. And almost every one that’s delivered the warning has failed to followup with any dynamic solutions. The best alternative I’ve been suggested is a wheelchair. The worst has been a shrug of the shoulders (on the doctor’s part) and a slow back-out of the room.

So without guidance being offered by doctors – and quickly mounting desire to see some new places – I’ve started work on these…jumping crutches. I’m not terrifically good with names, so if you’re reading this and you can think of a better name than that, let me know.

The basic idea behind these crutches is to create a system that acts as both a suspension and propulsion system for the body. I would walk using a swing-through gate (which is what I use now; compare it to the bipedal gate you probably use) while utilizing the torso device for my main thrust/bounce. I’m hoping that once the setup is ready, that I’ll be able to pull 4-6ft strides (or lopes? gallops? I don’t know what the hell to call this…) from the apparatus.

Using off-the-shelf Powerisers (the child’s model), this could be extremely cheap to create and manufacture. We’re talking less than 350$ to buy two sets of the jumping stilts required to build my setup. I’ve posted this on openprosthetics.org, but will keep everyone up to speed about it’s progress on here as well.

I’ve already ordered one set of Powerisers, and will hopefully have another on the way soon. Until then, here’s a couple more renders to think about…

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  • Doris Dinsmore

    I think that your power walkers are a great idea and I hope they work out.

  • Doris Dinsmore

    I think that your power walkers are a great idea. I hope that kinks all get worked out and they help you out.

  • MarshaKatz

    Hi Kevin,

    These remind me somewhat of the prostheses used by the runners…there is a sort of “springiness” to them…something to also absorb some of the impact. I think that in trying to lessen the damage to your hands, arms and shoulders, you may want to find some good ways to build in shock absorption to whatever extent possible. I like that your design will harness your own momentum more efficiently to help move you. For the places that power chairs can't go…..this is looking very cool, and efficient. remember to also design a back sling or whatever to carry your skateboard or these if you want to be able to switch off.
    Can't wait to see how his all unfolds!

  • http://www.bradleyrobb.net/ P. Bradley Robb

    Sounds like you need a device naming contest.

  • Baguette

    Kev… you are crazy !!! Sorry, this is the first thing that comes to my mind ^_^ Of course, I mean you're fucking crazy good !!

    How can you imagine something like that will work??? The worst thing is I also think it will, just because you're part of it !! If I can help in any way, just let me know… I'm affraid I don't qualify for the name contest, unless you wanna export to France 😉 Anyway, sorry to hear your shoulders hurts, but I'm sure you're on a good way to solve this. Good luck with that !!!

    See ya'

  • Baguette

    Just wondering if it wouldn't be better to use ski sticks (don't know the proper name) instead. It would be simpler and maybe better for your shoulders while as efficient? … Just an idea…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502230931 Katharine Barnett

    I definitely sympathsize with the insensitive doctorts and shoulder pains, while I have all my limbs most of them hurt most of the time. I have a number of doctors and few of them are helpful. At this point I consider one good if they are willing to fill my pain meds without serious argument and difficulty. The jumping stilts sound like a great idea. (I'm reading through your blog because I am on the committee that is bringing you to Oshkosh next week!)

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