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University of Iowa News Release

July 9, 2003

(Click on photos for high resolution image: Top--Luke Bader and his younger brother, Joseph, pose with the Walk Along, an invention designed to help Joseph learn to walk. Bottom--Luke Bader demonstrates how his Walk Along invention will help his younger brother, Joseph, learn to walk. Bader's invention won a scholarship from the Iowa Biotechnology Association.)

Young Inventor Helps Little Brother Learn To Walk

There are some things you just don't want to give up when you're in the fourth grade and enjoying a snow day off from school: playing with a friend is one of them.

But Luke Bader, who will be a fifth grader at St. Athanasius in Jesup this fall, gave up part of a precious snow day this past winter to complete an invention to help his younger brother, Joseph, overcome a genetic disability and learn to walk.

At the Invent Iowa Convention held in April at Iowa State University, Luke's dedication was rewarded. His Walk Along invention received a scholarship from the Iowa Biotechnology Association. Luke receives a $1,000 scholarship if he attends college in Iowa and $500 if he attends college outside of the state. He is the son of Deb and Lee Bader of Jesup.

"For Luke, I think you could call it a labor of love," Deb Bader said. "There were times when it wasn't easy for Luke to go on, but he did it. Once there was a snow day off from school and one of his friends had to come over. Luke had to spend part of the day working on the project while his friend was there. I'm sure he would have much rather spent the time playing with his friend."

The Invent Iowa Competition is sponsored by The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development in the UI College of Education and by the UI and ISU colleges of engineering.

"Inventing and the invention process involves problem finding, reading, writing,
researching, building, and speaking," said to Clar Baldus, Ph.D. Invent Iowa coordinator. "Teaching the invention process is a fun and creative way to integrate math, science, English, social studies and kinesthetic experiences in an unique way that can motivate at times even the most reluctant students."

For the Iowa Biotechnology Association, sponsoring a scholarship at Invent Iowa for the first time, it was a chance to recognize young individuals and their inventions.

"The key element that we look for are projects and inventions that are applicable to advancing life sciences," Doug Getter, IBA's executive director, said. "Luke's project struck me as the one with the best potential to do that. There are a number of children who are delayed or who are having trouble developing leg muscles."

Joseph has a chromosomal disorder that makes it difficult for him to learn to walk. Luke's invention was designed to help Joseph learn the mechanics of walking and to help develop the necessary muscles.

The Walk Along features two different lengths of PVC pipes. At the end of each pipe are PVC fittings, padding, and hook and loop fasteners. Luke attaches one end of each pipe to Joseph's legs and the other end to his own. Moleskin padding prevents the PVC from rubbing against the skin.

"The best part of building it was finding out how it would work and putting together all the stuff and coming up with different ideas for it," Luke said.

With Joseph in his walker and Luke behind him, each step Luke takes is mirrored by Joseph's legs.

"The first time we tried it at my little brother's school it worked pretty good. He could actually move as if he's walking," Luke said.

Luke, who was surprised at even earning a place at the statewide convention, was even more surprised when the letter arrived from the IBA.

"When I first got the letter I was really surprised that I was one of the five at my school chosen to go to state," Luke said.

Invention's like Luke's Walk Along continues to surprise Baldus year after year, she said.

"Part of the reason for that is people often think there's nothing left to invent," she said. "At the beginning of the process even the young inventors will think that. What surprises me is the uniqueness and elegant simplicity of some of the ideas."

For example, this year one of the competitors invented an exit strobe. A fatal fire at a dance club earlier in the year provided the inspiration for that invention.

"The students heard about that and were quite concerned," Baldus said. "This year we found there were quite a few assistive projects - ideas that were meant to help people with disabilities. Several young inventors with farm backgrounds completed projects related to safety on the farm."

Luke got the idea for his project by noticing how many special kinds of walkers were being used for his brother. Helping him with his research were physical therapists Barb Kaufman (Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo), Dean Sturch at Clark and Associates Prosthetics and Orthotics in Waterloo and Joseph's teachers at East Elementary school in Independence: Leanna Moats, Diana Sloan and Cindy Brown.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Mendenhall, writer, 319-384-0019, Program: Clar Baldus, 319-335-6148,