02 May 2009

Rover helps disabled become mobile

Frank Robertson
TAMPA - Engineers at the University of South Florida have developed a device that will literally change people’s lives. It’s called the Mobili-T Rover and will give disabled people access to places they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to travel to on their own.

You might call Michael Foradori the first test pilot for the new machine. The 23-year-old from Mississippi was paralyzed after a fall nine years ago but has since regained some function.

“Over time, I found I could brush my teeth. I can feed myself a little bit. So, even though I’ve been hurt, the longer I’ve been hurt, the more I’m progressing,” Foradori said.

The prototype for the rover was developed by an engineering student named Travis Watkins. His own father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“This is one of many, but it’s probably one of those that’s most exciting because it’s very very innovative. Something that’s creative, something that’s completely out of the box,” Watkins said.

The rover doesn’t require any power of its own. It basically becomes an extension of Michael’s motorized wheelchair.

A company called “Rehab Ideas” was created to take the concepts developed my engineering students to the marketplace.

“It’s a great opportunity not only for me, but there are other people out there, you know, that might be lacking this experience. You know, something that can give people hope because everybody else can go out and ride a four wheeler. Now I can too,” Foradori said.

In fact, with his new found freedom, Michael doesn’t believe there’s much he can’t do. Before returning home to Mississippi with the rover in tow, Michael will be fitted for the device. He’ll also meet with other specialists to help him maximize his mobility.

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