31-year-old Zac Vawter lost his leg in a motorcycle accident back in 2009 and wasn't quite satisfied with the responsiveness of his prosthetic (he refers to it as his "dumb" leg). So Vawter, a software engineer from Washington state, signed up to be a research subject for a promising new leg that is controlled by thought.
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Center for Bionic Medicine is behind this exciting concept (and the team has helped develop thought-controlled prosthetic arms, too). And Vawter has agreed to debut it in a very unique way — by climbing 103 flights of stairs to the top of Chicago's Willis Tower.
2,700 people are expected to participate alongside Vawter this Sunday as part of the event, dubbed "SkyRise Chicago". It will help raise money for the rehabilitation institute and Vawter has spent hours in training. The research team recently placed 11 electrodes on his thigh so that information could be sent to the microcomputer on the prosthetic leg. Now Vawter can think, "Climb stairs," and, incredibly, his body and the leg work fluidly together to do what is needed.
Hopefully, the $8 million project, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense along with Vanderbilt University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Brunswick will help make thought-controlled prosthetic legs widely available in the future.
Don't miss the gallery below of Vawter in Chicago getting fitted with the prosthetic and walking around the Willis Tower getting ready for the November 4th event.