Bionic Leg shows promisein rehabilitation
After experiencing a knee injury while playing sandlot football in high school, BOB HORST '75 wasn't satisfied with the doctor's solution for keeping him mobile — crutches. "That seemed primitive to me," he said. And so started Horst's dream to create a better solution.
About 30 years later, while working in computer systems design, Horst began conducting research in the medical field. In 2002, he co-founded Tibion Bionic Technologies with a mission statement that satisfied his high school hope: "Advancing rehabilitation and mobility with innovative technology." Despite years of uncertainty about whether a noninvasive, computerized assistive device could have therapeutic value, the PK100 Bionic Leg Orthosis was born. "We are the first to have a portable device like this," Horst said. " What really makes ours effective is that it is intention-based. … It is unlike many robotic therapy devices in that it does not have a set of movement patterns or speeds, but continually reacts to the intended motion of the patient. This is a key reason the Bionic Leg is showing so much promise in rehabilitation."
Tibion began shipping the Bionic Leg to clinics at the end of 2009, and more than 100 patients have used it during the past year. Each physical therapy session with the Bionic Leg lasts about an hour, with patients performing simple repetitions like going up and down a step, sitting and standing, walking, and balancing. The technology has allowed stroke patients to regain mobility they may have been told was irreversibly lost. "Our goal is to become the standard of care for stroke rehabilitation. Most stroke patients get no more therapy after the first six months because it's not effective. But we've seen patients five or 10 years after a stroke who are noticeably better after using this technology."
As Tibion's chief technology officer, Horst, who earned his master's and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, said his greatest reward is watching patients overcome their physical challenges with technology he created. "Seeing patients benefit from our Bionic Leg is rewarding unlike anything else I have experienced. It can be a very emotional experience to see a patient come to a clinic, put on the device, and start to regain their ability to walk."
Horst said his near-term goals are to grow Tibion, which currently has 14 employees, into a larger company that can produce and deliver the Bionic Leg to clinics around the country. He also hopes to develop lower-cost products for home use and new devices that provide other types of robotic therapy. "There are more than 6.5 million stroke survivors in the U.S., and we will do well to improve therapy for a small fraction of them."
An electrical engineering major, Horst said Bradley professors, particularly Dr. DONALD SCHERTZ '60, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, helped guide him toward a career that matched his interests. "Bradley gave me a good, solid foundation and the tools to learn how to keep up with new technology."
Horst and his wife Julie have two children and live in San Jose, California.
JEFF WOLFFE '01, CORINNE ARGOL WOLFFE '03, and ERIC BRINKER '98 opened the LOOP Cycling Studio in September at Peoria's Metro Centre. The Sigma Chi fraternity brothers, with Corinne as social media director/customer service manager, teamed up to create a new spin on indoor cycling. LOOP does not require a membership, and reservations for rides are booked online. Eric and Jeff created the LOOP Method, a cycling program focusing on a full-body workout, including the use of hand weights during every ride. Corinne supplements the program with an all-inclusive community through social media and the overall customer experience. The trio has worked to create "an intense fitness experience in an intimate atmosphere for the mind, body, and soul."
Bradley Brave still playing at 82
Former Peoria baseball standout KEN SCHWAB '50 hasn't hung up his cleats yet. The 82-year-old Bradley alumnus completed another senior softball season in February 2010 at The Villages in Lady Lakes, Fla., where his Dragons team won the National League Division Five championship.
An infielder and pitcher for Peoria High School in the '40s, Ken was a member of the 1948 Bradley University baseball team, which recorded a 30-5 season, and he was later inducted into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame. He also played in the Sunday Morning League on the Hiram Walker team with Chuck Thome, father of Minnesota Twins player Jim Thome.
During the summer months, Ken plays senior softball in St. Louis and has made several trips to Arizona for all-star tournaments, which offer the rigors of two games a day for a week. In his spare time he competes in Senior Olympics events, including softball distance-throw, football distance-throw and accuracy, and the 50-meter dash, winning gold medals.
In addition to his softball exploits, Ken joined a 50-plus baseball team affiliated with the National Adult Baseball Association in St. Louis. "My senior softball and baseball competition has opened up a whole new vista," Ken said. "It's a great way to stay active and meet lots of nice people with similar interests."
Ken and his brother BOB SCHWAB '47 were members of Sigma Chi at Bradley. Ken is a self-employed financial analyst/investor and resides in St. Charles, Mo., and Florida with his partner, Sherry Swartz. He has two daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. During his Peoria years he worked for the Schwab Dairy family business located on Western Avenue.