MIT graduate student wins $30,000 Lemelson-MIT student prize for life-saving inventions

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (February 14, 2007) The ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound used to be the stuff of comic-book fantasy. Nathan Ball, a 23-year-old graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and this years winner of the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, has invented a device that makes the fantasy a reality.

With the help of Balls ATLAS Powered Rope Ascender, a fully loaded firefighter could reach the top of a 30-story building in only 30 seconds, compared to the six minutes or more it often takes to trudge up stairs with 80 to 100 pounds of equipment. The device, which is the size of a hand-held power tool, can lift a 250-pound load more than 600 feet into the air at nearly 10 feet per second, all on a single battery charge.

Ingenuity, creativity and passion seem to course through Nates blood, said Merton Flemings, director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, which sponsors the annual award. His battery-powered rope ascender and needle-free injection technology both have life-saving capabilities and many commercial applications.

Nate is also an inspiring and committed mentor for young inventors. This combination of attributes made him our top choice for this years $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Flemings added.

Up, Up and Away!

In November 2004, Ball and three colleagues entered the Soldier Design Competition sponsored by the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. The competition called for a high-powered device to enable rapid vertical mobility.

Ball called the challenge unprecedented, as the original specifications called for a device that weighed less than 25 pounds and could lift 250 pounds 50 feet into the air, in five seconds. Thats more than five horsepower in a 25-pound package, he explained. Thats a power-to-weight ratio higher than a Dodge Vipers we did the math. To have that much power in that small of a package is a heck of a challenge.


Contact: Matt Paine
Lemelson-MIT Program

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