Arrow Electronics Helps Former Quadriplegic IndyCar Driver Walk Again
Article by: Arrow Electronics
Arrow Electronics helped former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt take his public first steps using a modified exoskeleton designed to provide semi-autonomous mobility.
After a racing accident left his shoulders paralyzed over two decades ago, former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt believed he would never drive or walk again. But with help from Arrow Electronics, Schmidt took his first public steps last month using a modified exoskeleton designed to provide semi-autonomous mobility (SAM) to people with severe disabilities.
Walking with the help of technology is the latest chapter in Schmidt’s long road to improved mobility. Since 2014 he has been driving – and even racing again – using a SAM technology package that allows him to control high-performance cars using head controls.
But even driving at a speed of 201 mph on race tracks can be easier than walking at 1 mph.
[Download] Electronic system assembly simulation
A collaboration between Arrow and robotic engineering researchers at Vanderbilt University, the Arrow SAM jumpsuit advances current exoskeleton technology with extensions to support Schmidt’s torso and arms as well as his lower limbs. These modifications provide Schmidt with stability up to his neck, while sensors at his feet detect his stride and modulate his speed, allowing him to walk at a slow but steady pace with the help of a valid assistant. Schmidt can now stand and walk up to 100 feet at a time, and even danced with his daughter at her wedding in April.
His steps at the Indy Grand Prix in May marked the first time members of his racing team, Arrow McLaren SP, have seen him standing and walking since his 1999 crash. wheelchair, even Schmidt was surprised to see what it’s like to be six feet tall again.
“After 21 years, I couldn’t remember what the view looked like,” Schmidt told NBC News correspondent Harry Smith, who captured the public debut of the SAM Suit for Today’s show. “I haven’t had a full body hug in 21 years, and I’ve had a few today.”
The SAM Suit is an extension of the technological approach used to develop the SAM Arrow Car, a modified Corvette. Schmidt drove the SAM Car in amateur races, broke speed records and raced the public streets of several American cities. He holds a special driving license to pilot the experimental vehicle.
The SAM Suit Schmidt represents the first iteration of the technology. Future versions will include motion controllers and additional software to synchronize movements and balance. These changes should give Schmidt more control over how the suit works, soften his gait, and allow for increased movement, including turning and sitting.
“It’s 1.0. The point with this is that I won’t need to be balanced by an assistant. I will be able to make it work entirely by myself, which is a gigantic task, ”admitted Schmidt.
As Arrow and its partners continue to incorporate additional functionality, Schmidt will demonstrate current technology by walking at selected public events, illustrating how technology extends personal freedom and enhances opportunities for people with disabilities.