'Proudest moment in my life': UW alumni create robot that helps kids walk
KITCHENER -- A University of Waterloo alumni team turned their school project into a business that supports children with mobility challenges.
Six-year-old Ben Hatziioannou has cerebral palsy, a condition that causes stiff muscles and tremors. But thanks to a device called Trexo, he's feeling more comfortable with every step he takes.
It's a dream come true for his mom, who says his first session was an emotional one.
"It was probably a 20 or 30 minute session and he did over 300 steps," Andrea Hatziioannou remembers.
Manmeet Maggu and Dina Nikitina are the minds behind the device, which is operated by a tablet and straps to the real legs of the child using it.
"We build robotic exoskeletons which help move the children's legs, but they also provide them with a better quality of life," Nikitina, the company's COO, explains.
It started as a design project for school and is now a growing business in Mississauga.
Maggu, the company's CEO, says the technology is being introduced in hospitals and clinics across Canada.
He says the motivation behind building Trexo came after his nephew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
"Essentially we watched Praneit take some of his first steps using the device," Maggu remembers.
"That still is the proudest moment in my life."
Trexo can be used by children with neuromuscular conditions or other mobility impairments, and is available for lease or purchase.
Right now, it's considered an exercise and therapy platform for use with an adult present at home and at clinics.
"Our hope and goal is using the clinical studies as well as the data we're collecting that we can then take this to insurance providers down the road," Maggu says.
The long-term goal is to turn the device into a mobility solution you can take anywhere, using robotics to help get young people back on their feet.