Leaping Tall Buildings isn't Just for Super Heroes Anymore

Feb. 22, 2007
Superman may not be the only one able to leap a building in a single bound thanks to graduate student in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nathan Ball.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

MIT graduate student Nathan Ball, who invented a device for rapidly scaling large heights, is this year's winner of the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.
Photo courtesy / Lemelson MIT Program
Ball won the $30,00 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Atlas, a device that makes the fantasy of Superman's powers close to reality.

The Atlas rope ascender lets a fully loaded firefighter reach the top of a 30-story building in 30 seconds. This compares to the six minutes it could take to climb the stairs with 80 to 100-lbs. of equipment. The device is the size of a hand-held power tool and can lift a 250-lb. load more than 600 ft. into the air at about 10 ft./sec. on a single battery charge.

Similar to the way anchors are raised and lowered on ships, the rope-handling mechanism produces a tighter grip each time the rope wraps around a cylinder, continuously tightening as more weight is applied. In Ball's patent-pending design, the rope is between 3/8-and-5/8-in. in diameter. This new device could be used in rescue work but also recreationally, for climbing and exploring caves. "It could eliminate the need for ladders and heavy gear," says Ball.

More Information:

This web-only article appears in the Mechanical e-newsletter. If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, sign up today for our free e-mail newsletters!

Sponsored Recommendations

MOVI-C Unleashed: Your One-Stop Shop for Automation Tasks

April 17, 2024
Discover the versatility of SEW-EURODRIVE's MOVI-C modular automation system, designed to streamline motion control challenges across diverse applications.

The Power of Automation Made Easy

April 17, 2024
Automation Made Easy is more than a slogan; it signifies a shift towards smarter, more efficient operations where technology takes on the heavy lifting.

Lubricants: Unlocking Peak Performance in your Gearmotor

April 17, 2024
Understanding the role of lubricants, how to select them, and the importance of maintenance can significantly impact your gearmotor's performance and lifespan.

From concept to consumption: Optimizing success in food and beverage

April 9, 2024
Identifying opportunities and solutions for plant floor optimization has never been easier. Download our visual guide to quickly and efficiently pinpoint areas for operational...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!