An update on a story we reported back in May: A group of college engineering students altering the life of a doctor unable to perform surgery because he couldn’t stand. Then, on the spot, he stood.
This was the scene more than seven months ago. Five engineering students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison huddle around SPOT — standing paraplegic omni-directional transport — a wheelchair they developed from the base up.
Justin Cacciatore, UWM Biomedical Engineering student: “We’ll be here until one or two am working just trying to get everything right.”
The device is heading to the operating room, not to support a patient — to support a surgeon. Throughout the course of the project, the team’s inspiration, Dr. Garrett Cuppels — an orthopedic surgeon who damaged his spinal cord and lost the use of his legs after a fall from a third-story balcony — checked in via Skype.
Dr. Cuppels: “I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
Michael Konrath, UWM Biomedical Engineering student: “We have this opportunity to help one person and now we want to see how far we can take it.”
In November, the students and Dr. Cuppels gathered for their first test run in a simulated operating room.
Michael Konrath: “One thing we didn’t know at first, he couldn’t be moved by a nurse. Our first designs we’re not even electrical.”
After the test, the students put the finishing touches on the design. On Friday, their final presentation. Dr. Cuppels flew to Madison to take part and demonstrate the device that just might change his life.
Dr. Cuppels: “I don’t know that there are words. It just gave me a whole new opportunity to move.”
Michael Konrath: “It’s a deep down kind of thrill. I mean, that’s why I became a biomedical engineer, to help people and reduce their pain and give people hope. And I feel like this encompasses all those goals pretty well.”
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Cuppels, the team of engineering students and the standing wheelchair, check out:
You can contact the SPOT team at firstname.lastname@example.org