Here comes the robo-wedgie

A student at MIT has invented a motorized pulley that will let paramedics and firefighters zip up the side of buildings like Spider-Man.

Nathan Ball, a graduate student at MIT, has invented a motorized pulley that will let paramedics and firefighters zip up the side of buildings like Spider-Man.

Ball's Atlas Powered Rope Ascender can pull a firefighter loaded down with 80 to 100 pounds of equipment up a 30-story building in 30 seconds. Trudging up the stairs weighed down with equipment can take six to eight minutes.

Nathan Ball
Nathan Ball and the Atlas Lemelson-MIT Foundation

Ball is this year's recipient of the Lemelson-MIT award, a $30,000 prize for invention annually awarded to a student at the school. The Atlas works as follows. A rope is fixed to the roof or other surface where a firefighter or paramedic wants to go (the Atlas thus is designed for the second and third waves of help). Down below, the rope is woven through a series of specially configured rollers on top of a turning spindle on the Atlas. As the battery-powered spindle rotates, it pulls the rope through the device and hoists the person.

Like a boat anchor, the Atlas exploits the capstan effect, which produces a tighter grip each consecutive time a rope is wrapped around a cylinder in the Atlas. As the grip tightens, more weight can be applied to the line.

The battery inside the Atlas comes from A123 Systems, a notable lithium ion battery start-up that's working with General Motors and General Electric.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Delete your photos by mistake?

Whether you've deleted everything on your memory card or there's been a data corruption, here's a way to recover those photos.