Former Indy car driver Sam Schmidt was left paralyzed from his shoulders down after a racing accident in 2000. But after more than two decades, he’s now able to stand up and take his first steps due to the help of a team of engineers from Arrow Electronics, who’ve designed him an exoskeleton that supports his legs.
The exoskeleton allows Schmidt to stand and walk forward, while someone helps him balance from behind.
Schmidt told TODAY he’s run out of words to describe the feeling of being able to walk again. “Epic. Mega. Unbelievable. After 21 years, I didn’t remember what the view was like,” he said. “I haven’t gotten a full-body hug in 21 years, you know. And we got some of those today.”
Despite the accident, racing continues to be a passion for Schmidt. A few years ago he drove a Corvette, specially designed by Arrow to allow him to control the vehicle using only the movements of his head.
Schmidt even began racing again in 2018, saying that racing has been his dream since he was 5 years old. “Everybody thought it was insane. Why would I go back to the sport that put me in a wheelchair?” he told Harry Smith from TODAY. “In 21 years, I never had a dream where I was in a wheelchair.”
Schmidt describes his new exoskeleton design as a “1.0,” saying the engineers are working on even more advanced versions of the device. He says the engineers’ goals are for Schmidt to balance without the support of anyone else, and for him to operate it on his own.
This device has already helped Schmidt achieve one of his major dreams – dancing at his daughter’s wedding.