Anthony Kang, project manager of Track Trainer, is lending a hand to help stroke survivors use theirs. Track Trainer is a stroke rehabilitation device that focuses on improving strength and mobility in stroke survivors’ upper limbs. It is in the prototype phase.
The Garage sat down with Kang to learn how Track Trainer gets survivors from point A to point B.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
How does Track Trainer work?
It’s a box that looks like an arcade game. There’s a central track and a handle. The objective is really simple: You’re trying to push the handle through the track from point A to point B, and then back to point A, but along the track you have multiple gates. At each gate, you have to complete a task, for instance, turning a key or pressing a button.
It’s a really simple idea, but it’s actually a big step up compared to what’s currently on the market for affordable stroke rehabilitation devices for the upper limbs. If you’ve been to the doctor’s office and seen toddler toys like ring towers or bead mazes, that’s kind of what stroke survivors have to use right now. We’re trying to make it more engaging and keep it at an affordable price level.
How do you address the differences between stroke survivors with different skill levels?
With our last prototype we made the task boxes detachable. That was an accident, but it works surprisingly well. We’re making the parts interchangeable so you can switch out the handles for different stroke survivors, switch out the task boxes [and] change the number of task boxes that are plugged in. It’s really giving therapists an opportunity to customize the Track Trainer for different stroke patients’ needs.
How have stroke survivors reacted to Track Trainer?
There’s so much focus on regaining the ability to walk, so a lot of [the] time, the upper limb rehabilitation gets neglected. That’s why rehabilitation tends to be slower in the upper body. For a lot of stroke survivors, this is the first device they’ve seen that’s actually targeted toward upper limb rehabilitation, but in a more interesting way. Overall, I think the reception’s been really positive.
How has The Garage helped?
It’s been a great space to meet other people doing really interesting projects. Everyone’s working on something really cool, something that’s really personal to them. It’s been great being part of that community.
I think the biggest thing has been the network. Not only our peer residents, but also the entrepreneurs-in-residence [and] the mentors. We’ve had a lot of really great conversations with people here.
During our family dinners, a lot of the residents share their failures. I think it’s been reassuring that it’s not always an easy process, but there’s so many people going through that process with us.
How have setbacks been helpful?
You always learn something from failures. It’s always a really good benchmark for telling you that something’s not working. From that, well, what do we need to do to fix that?
Tell me about your team.
We are a three person team. We have myself, project manager, and we have someone on the marketing side and someone on the finance side. But we all do a little bit of the engineering. We have our own roles, but ultimately we’re all building together. And I think that’s really representative of what we like to see. We like to see the stroke survivor community come together to make this a better product.
Between the three of us, only one is formally trained as an engineer. We learn the ropes as we go. But I think that makes for some really cool opportunities: trying different things out, going out of our comfort zone to learn engineering techniques, learning different modeling tools, how software and hardware integrate together…It’s been a really interesting experience.
Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.