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Engineering whiz high school student creates exoskeleton

Wednesday - 6/11/2014, 4:59pm  ET

conor.jpg
Conor Maddry, of Langley High School in McLean, exhibits his exoskeleton at the ISEF science fair. (Courtesy Saxon Scope Online)

Zoe Sagalow, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- A Virginia high school junior has taken a step toward making "Iron Man" a reality.

Conor Maddry, of Langley High School, started by building a bionic elbow brace for last year's school science fair. After he took it to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, he was inspired to continue the project.

This year, Maddry built a full-body bionic exoskeleton. He said he hasn't taken any engineering classes, and instead taught himself to build the exoskeleton, learning the necessary concepts on the Internet.

When he took the year's project to the Intel ISEF, Maddry was awarded the opportunity to present his project at the SmartAmerica Challenge Expo Wednesday afternoon in D.C.

"I'm very, very excited about talking there, because a lot of the people who are going to be there are people who I might potentially want to work for in the future," Maddry says. He adds that he is "very excited to be able to share with them my project and possibly get feedback as well."

The SmartAmerica Challenge, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow project, aims to bring government, industry and academia together.

But this isn't the end for Maddry's project. "This year was basically a proof of concept -- showing your strength could be enhanced by wearing an exoskeleton that was powered by pneumatics instead of DC motors, and using homemade electromyographic sensors, which is how I get the signal from my muscles," he says. "Next year, I want to expand on it and try to make it more of a product instead of a science-fair project."

Maddry says he has ideas for how his exoskeleton could be useful for the military and other groups.

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