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:
MIT


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