INVENTION: The NUberwalker is a 2006 winner of the Davinci award that “honors outstanding engineering achievements relative to design process, product design and applied research related to accessibility and universal design issues ” (See 2006 Davinci Award). The NUberwalker is a body weight supported treadmill training system designed for home use. It can be used by those suffering from obesity or recovering from orthopedic surgery, stroke and other ailments to accelerate rehabilitation and regain the ability to walk. This cost-effective and simple accessory to any standard treadmill is an effective supplement to physical therapy provided in a clinic. Practicing walking at home can reduce a user’s recovery time without the inconvenience of having to travel to a hospital or physical therapy facility. Additionally, users can continue with their training after their physical therapy has been completed. To the best of our knowledge, the NUberwalker is the only cost-effective solution feasible for home use. Attributes of the NUberwalker include the following:
Inexpensive Sleek, lightweight design Easy to assemble Simple to operate Compact, collapsible design is easy to store Adjustable support to up to 50% of body weight throughout rehabilitation NUberwalker has been designed to address the three (3) primary components of walking; namely posture, balance and coordination – all three of which need to be in place for effective gait. The NUberwalker is shown in Figure 1. The frame is placed over the user’s treadmill and supports his or her body weight through a system of bungee cords tensioned by a motor. This system allows the user to initially practice the walking motion with up to fifty percent (50%) of his or her body weight supported by the bungee cords. As the user regains balance and strength, the bungee cords can be adjusted to support increasingly less body weight until the user can walk without the aid of the NUberwalker Over the course of three years, nine teams have worked to develop the NUberwalker. (See www.idea.northwestern.edu/nuberwalker.html for the NUberwalker web page, and www.idea.northwestern.edu for the "IDEA" student program). The “folding hinge” element is key to NUberwalker’s compact, collapsible and easy-to-assemble design (See Figure 2). It is a three-piece mechanism that enables NUberwalker to be pre-assembled in a manufacturing plant and shipped to the user as a one-piece, collapsible assembly. Other enhancements by more recent teams have included a smaller/lighter motor assembly, protective plastic housings, improved handlebar ergonomics, electronic readout of user settings, stabilizing feet, a user-friendly bungee cord attachment system, effective cable management.
APPLICATIONS: Recovery from obesity, orthopedic surgery (lower body), stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, extensive bed rest, other.
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT: The inventors have conducted extensive interviews and trials to determine design requirements and to validate the design with doctors and potential users. Next steps have been identified to move the prototype to production. A summary of all NUberwalker safety features and a complete, up-to-date Bill of Materials have been documented.
Northwestern seeks a licensing partner to commercialize this invention. A patent application has been filed.
Ed Colgate, Stacy Benjamin, Steve Jacobson , Chris McCloskey, Paul Braun, Susan James, David Wei, Steven Richter
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