A Student Engineer Who Built A Better Walker
Austin Yoshino isn’t content to settle for “good enough.” The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa mechanical engineering student saw a problem — his younger brother Brandt’s ungainly walker that he needs because of his cerebral palsy — and decided he could design something better.
“Growing up, I would see his struggles and see what he went through — and the ins and outs of why these devices weren’t up to par,” Yoshino says.
“They’re very big and bulky, and they’re like this because they need the extra material to support weight distribution of the user.”
Thus, Yoshino came up with a more streamlined, user-friendly walker.
“This came to my mind when I was playing with one of those little hoverboard things, and I thought about how the hoverboard is self-stabilized and what goes into making that so easy to ride. So I did a little research, and I saw there was a gyroscopic wheel being used to replace training wheels (on a bike), so … that’s how I got the idea of combining the two technologies together.
“Our incorporating gyroscopic technology in the wheels helps the wheel to be self-stabilized, and when the wheels are self-stabilized and are attached to a frame, the frame is self-stabilized, too, and you can reduce the frame size with this technology.”
Yoshino worked on this project through a research class at school but decided his ambitions extended beyond helping just his brother — after all, why stop there?
“The ultimate goal is to be able to push out products in the medical field that will help improve the quality of people’s lives,” he explains.
He founded a company, G-Trainer LLC, to do exactly this, bringing together an all-star group of his student peers to staff the firm: Everett Amundson, Jillian Kuba, Jason Chan and Kendra Horvath.
Then, he entered his idea in the UH Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship’s Breakthrough Innovative Challenge — and won first place, with a $2,000 cash prize.
The monies, he said, paid for the patent pending and other fees, as well as a 3-D printer to begin manufacturing prototypes.
The next step, however, is securing more funding to get the project off the ground. While Yoshino plans to enter G-Trainer in other business competitions, he also could use a little boost from the community. Potential donors can check things out at g-trainerllc.com.
There’s more in the works than a single kind of walking device, says Yoshino.
“We’re looking at other ways to use this technology. While this first G-Trainer will be tailored specifically for cerebral palsy or movement disorders, eventually we’re going to work to expand that, potentially to the elderly, stroke patients or injured veterans.”