At Not Impossible Now, we continue to be amazed by the creative ways people have carried out the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, raising millions of dollars for the ALS Association in the process.
Because ALS leaves people in total paralysis, no one living with ALS has been able to dump a bucket of ice water on someone else — until now.
In the YouTube video below, Steve Saling, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2006, drops a bucket of ice water by simply looking up. Dan Bacher, the founder and executive director of the SpeakYourMind Foundation, and others cobbled together a special rig with items that cost less than $100 to make it happen.
Not Impossible Now spoke with Bacher about how they were able to create this special moment for Saling. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Q: How did you meet Steve Saling?
Bacher: Steve is an amazing guy. He actually helped build the country’s first specialized ALS residence. It’s a super high-tech facility where people living with ALS can basically control everything in the entire place through assisted technology.
I actually met Steve, because I went to the opening of this ALS residence, which is in Chelsea, Mass., just north of Boston. It’s called the Leonard Florence Center for Living.
Q: What inspired you to create a special rig, so Steve could participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?
Bacher: This ice bucket challenge went completely viral. Everyone was doing it. Someone with ALS can’t do it. It requires you to lift a bucket over your head and dump it.
Being the engineers and hackers that we are, we thought it would be really cool if we gave someone who was paralyzed the ability to dump a bucket on someone else. Steve really wanted to do it.
So we thought, “What’s the easiest way that we can do this?” We previously had been working on a wearable eye tracker. It’s a pair of glasses with a little camera mounted on it.
A little motor is actually holding the bucket in place, so when Steve looked up, the eye movement was detected [through the eye tracker], and it caused the motor to move and release the bucket.
Q: During the “dry” run in the video, you can see Steve smile after the bucket drops. What was his reaction like after he actually dumped the ice water on you?
Bacher: He was laughing his butt off! He gave this really powerful speech during the beginning [of the video], but I think this was also about doing something fun. I think part of the purpose was to illustrate that we can do anything for someone. Someone with ALS is capable of doing anything. They just need a little bit of help from technology to make it happen.
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