If only we had one of these in high school gym. This nifty invention by some enterprising MIT students can climb a rope all by itself at the astonishing rate of 10 feet per second--carrying 250 pounds all the while.
The success of the "Rope Ascender" apparently hinges on the concept of strength derived from winding the rope around a cylinder multiple times. The students' efforts, which led to the formulation of a company called Atlas Devices, have reportedly been rewarded already with a U.S. Army contract.
As an example of its very practical uses, Coolest-Gadgets notes that the rope-climbing system can allow a firefighter to scale a 30-story building in 30 seconds instead of 6 minutes. But to truly appreciate that kind of feat, you have to see it in action in the YouTube clip below.