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Marmion senior to pursue dream of building human exoskeleton

Marmion graduate Max Meyer of Geneva has a passion for science and technology. He is currently conducting research on developing a pneumatic exoskeletal arm that uses air to act as muscles.
Marmion graduate Max Meyer of Geneva has a passion for science and technology. He is currently conducting research on developing a pneumatic exoskeletal arm that uses air to act as muscles.

GENEVA – Max Meyer isn’t obsessed with superheroes.

But since seeing the first Iron Man film five years ago, Meyer, a budding engineer, has remained fascinated with one particular aspect of the Iron Man story: The
ability of the hero to augment his own physical strength with technology.

“I saw his suit, and I said, ‘I like that; that’s cool!’ ” Meyer said. “But then I thought, ‘Why can’t normal people have something like that?’ ”

In the years since, Meyer, 18, of Geneva, and a graduating senior at Marmion Academy in Aurora, has not allowed those thoughts to just be idle daydreams.

Beginning with a hand-drawn sketch on paper, and progressing to ever more advanced drawings and models, Meyer has worked to bring his vision of a pneumatic human exoskeleton to life.

The idea is based around the power of air.

Human limbs could be fitted with an external chassis, such as a metal brace, equipped with attached tubing and sleeves. 

The tubing and sleeve assembly would then be filled with compressed air, which would be triggered by movement of the limb.

As the air moves in and out of the sleeves in harmony with the limb’s movement, much like mechanical muscles, it would increase the strength of the limb.

“It’s not a bionic suit,” Meyer said. “It’s a body amplification exoskeleton.”

Ultimately, Meyer said he envisions a complete body suit powered by something akin to a scuba tank.

Meyer can quickly rattle off a list of possible uses for the device, including: helping those with damaged limbs regain quality of life; preventing damage to backs and joints of those lifting heavy objects; and increasing the abilities of soldiers in the field.

“They could wear heavy armor, carry all their gear and bring back the wounded,” Meyer said.

“They could be one-man rescue units.”

Those who know Meyer are not surprised by his passion.

His mother and father, Debby and Dave Meyer, of Geneva, said their son long has sought to augment the world around him, whether salvaging parts from a broken trike to create new toys or building his own computer or tinkering with his off-road motorcycle.

Meyer credits his father with instilling a love of engineering and science and mechanical knowledge.

One of Meyer’s teachers, Victor Pinks II, who has taught physics and computational science at Marmion for 13 years, said Meyer is “one of the most inquisitive minds” he’s met.

“He never stops asking questions, and he’s not afraid to learn or try anything,” Pinks said.

During his high school career, Meyer also has played football and lacrosse, and helped lead the school’s drill team.

Meyer will attend Eastern Illinois University, and has plans to transfer to the University of Texas.

He has enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

But Meyer said he intends to continue developing his invention while in college, as well as other ideas.

“I could never be a lawyer or a businessman,” Meyer said. “I need to be out in the field, with a project, hands-on, doing stuff.”

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