Dr Elena García, an industrial engineer working at Spain’s National Science Institute, had already developed a number of prototypes to help workers whose jobs involved lifting heavy weights.
When she met a 12-year-old named Daniela and her parents, she changed her concept in order to see if she could develop a machine which would allow Daniela to walk. The ‘bionic legs’ are frames which cover the child´s legs and are powered by several small engines, and Daniela is now able to walk for the first time since she was badly injured in a car crash when she was a baby.
The scientist set up a company Marsi Bionics and through a crowdfunding campaign raised the €150,000 she needed to get started, but a further €1 million is required to allow her to mass-produce the Atlas 2020, as the legs are now called.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 children in Spain with serious mobility problems and there is little doubt that they would benefit both immediately and in the long run if the Atlas 2020 was made available commercially. This could however be a very expensive aid as any child will, in time, outgrow the machine but Dr Garcia is already looking at ways of tackling that problem.
There is still a long way to go as the legs have to go through a series of checks and tests but it may just be that there will be benefit to children initially in Spain and eventually all over the world.