Tech startup hopes to put kids with disabilities back on their feet
Manmeet Maggu and Rahul Udasi hope their "Iron Man" legs will help kids affected by cerebral palsy, brain injuries, strokes and spinal injuries get out of their wheelchairs.
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A pair of tech entrepreneurs backed by the University of Toronto hope their “Iron Man legs” will be a giant leap forward for children with disabilities.
Trexo Robotics’ Manmeet Maggu and Rahul Udasi recently won $35,000 in seed funding after they pitched their invention — which has two robotic legs attached to a regular children’s walker — to private-equity and medical-device outfits at an event organized by Sunnybrook Hospital.
Trexo aims to help kids affected by cerebral palsy, brain injuries, strokes, spinal injuries and other conditions get out of their wheelchairs by upgrading regular walkers with battery-driven exoskeletons.
“The children get very excited,” Udasi said. “They say it makes them feel like Iron Man. Also the parents are very excited, because they know how much work they need to do to keep their kids active, and this can greatly assist them.”
The invention has already drawn interest from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where a trial project will start next year. The device can be used at home or outside. As a child grows in strength, the support needed to move them forward and counteract gravity can be dialed back.
After working together at the University of Waterloo, Maggu and Udasi were helped by U of T’s H2i Entrepreneurship Hatchery. Both are U of T graduates, Maggu with an MBA and Udasi with a master's degree in engineering.
The seed for the invention was planted in 2011, when Maggu’s nephew in India, Praneit, was told he would never walk again because of cerebral palsy. So far, six children have tested the device with varying results; Praneit is among the successful cases.
“It suits some better than others,” Udasi said, adding that the pair wants to work on usability, safety and affordability so the product can be commercialized.
“It’s been a lot of modelling on computers and prototyping,” Udasi explained. “U of T has helped us a lot, providing 3D printers and things like that. It’s taken multiple versions to get it to the place where it’s at now. We’re learning how to make it more adaptable.”
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