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GVSU designs mower for quadriplegic man

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013 |
GVSU designs mower for quadriplegic man story image
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - For most people, mowing the lawn is a chore.

Not for Jim Lobbezoo.

Six years ago, Lobbezoo fell asleep at the wheel of his truck a half-mile from his home and crashed, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

"There are a lot of obstacles I have to overcome, as far not being able to do a lot of things I used to do before," Lobbezoo said.

Mowing the lawn was one of those things, that Lobbezoo said he really missed.
Enter Trevor Rolph and his team from Grand valley State University.

The team retrofitted a remote-control lawn mower for Lobbezoo to operate, using only his mouth.

"All we have to work with are pressure differentials, or sips and puffs," Rolph said. "To turn that into an ongoing signal that the mower can read, that was a big challenge that took a lot of time."

Rolph told us he gets more out of learning like this than just knowledge.

"It adds in that human dynamic. You're not just doing it for yourself," he said. "If you fail, you don't just get a bad grade. Jim doesn't get his product."

For his part, Lobbezoo is thankful and appreciative of the hard work put in by the team.

"The first time doing it was overwhelming--the sense of accomplishment," Lobbezoo said.

The GVSU team is working with Lobbezoo to fine tune the mower.

Once it's fully ready, they say they'll give it over to him for good.

As for those wondering about the cost of a project like this, Spectrum Health donated $2,500 to make it happen, and a local business donated the first mower.

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