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Zac Vawter to climb Willis Tower with bionic leg

9:05 PM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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By Teresa Gutierrez

Chicago (WLS/CNN) - A Seattle man who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident considers himself a test pilot.

It's not a new plane he's testing out, but a bionic leg, and this Sunday he'll put it to the test by climbing 103 flights of stairs to the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago.

Seattle resident Zac Vawter lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident three years ago.

Vawter, a Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago participant will climb 103 floors of the Willis Tower on Sunday at the fourth annual Skyrise Event, using the first "bionic leg," a neutral-controlled prosthetic leg driven by his own thoughts.

"It feels awesome. It is a dramatic improvement over my normal prosthetic," said Vawter.

The one-of-a-kind prosthetic leg has a powered knee and ankle. What makes it bionic is that it interacts with him. When Vawter pushes on the device to stand up it reads his intent and pushes back on him propelling him up.

"The hardware is amazing, it's there, it is something exciting and fun and I hope we push the boundaries of the research and the leg are capable of," said Vawter.

"No one has ever used the nuero signals for leg control and it's also really advanced hardware," said Levi Hargrove with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The computer program on the screen is used to monitor Vawter and the bionic leg.

"We record all the data on a computer and teach the small micro computer what it looks like," said Vawter.

Close to 3,000 individuals will climb the 103 flights of stairs of the Willis Tower or handcycle the equivalent on Sunday morning.

"I'm excited to help with the fundraiser," said Vawter.


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