COLLEGE
05/16/2011 12:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Austin Whitney, Paralyzed Student Uses Exoskeleton Technology To Walk In His Berkeley Graduation

A UC Berkeley student who is paralyzed from the waist down was able to walk across the stage to receive his diploma this weekend, with the help of exoskeleton technology.

Four years ago, Austin Whitney was a senior in high school when he got in a drunk driving accident that severed his spinal chord and almost killed his best friend.

"I was consumed by self-hatred," said Whitney. But I realized I had two choices: I could live in the past and be filled with self pity ... (or) face the adversity in my life, not let this cover my goals and dreams and aspirations."

Whitney, who had always been a straight-A student, first enrolled in UC Santa Barbara and then transferred to Berkeley. While at Berkeley, he met Homayoon Kazeroon, a mechanical engineering professor, who invented the exoskeleton that Whitney used to walk across the stage. It had been originally designed for people who needed to carry heavy loads for long periods of time.


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The robotic legs involve leg-brace supports and a slim box-like apparatus strapped to Austin's back.

This technology enabled him to move his legs and walk tentatively across the stage, to the loud cheers of his fellow students and staff members.

Whitney is a double major in political science and history and plans to attend law school.