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Former SpaceX engineers design smart cushions for wheelchairs | senior-life

About half of the more than three million wheelchair users in the United States will at some point develop pressure ulcer injuries.

Tim Balz, founder and CEO of Viera-based Kalogon Smart Cushions, and his team of ex-SpaceX engineers began their quest over a year ago to create a cushion designed to relieve pain by redistributing pressure points. pressure. It ultimately speeds healing while providing lasting comfort for wheelchair users.

Last month, the company announced that it would begin selling the smart wheelchair cushions nationwide.

The Kalogon cushion uses patent-pending air cell technology that can be tailored to the specific needs of a wheelchair user via an app for iOS and Android wireless devices. It senses how a user is seated and redistributes pressure to promote blood circulation, reduce pain, and diminish ulcers and sores.

After receiving nearly $200,000 in financial support from Orlando-based Seed Funders, Kalogon’s smart cushion debut came after Balz’s list of successful wheelchair innovations. It all started during his high school days when he started refurbishing electric chairs and founded a non-profit organization called Freedom Chairs.

Balz, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, first worked at a design company in 2013 on a tracked wheelchair project and was named the inventor for that company’s patent.

While in college, he interned at Intel, where he helped lead the design of a connected wheelchair device called the Internet of Things.

It was during this time that he founded Kalogon.

After accepting a position at SpaceX in 2017, Balz and his wife, Sarah, moved to Viera.

“I continued to believe that the aged care market was vastly underserved and I was determined to find a way to help solve many of the challenges, especially in the prevention of pressure ulcers. I decided to make Kalogon my main focus in the fall

of 2020.”

Balz and his team began collecting feedback from seniors’ residences, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers to better understand the impact of pressure-induced injuries.

“If we can help solve the challenges facing wheelchair users in partnership with people of all abilities, then we’re doing our job right – from ideation to manufacturing and distribution,” Balz said.

Feedback from early adopters has been positive according to Balz. Reports from Kalogon’s Early Adopter Program studies indicated that wheelchair users could sit twice as long using the Smart

Cushion compared to traditional inflatable products.

“Many early adopters are veterans with disabilities, and we have distributed some of our first smart pads to local VA facilities. They were also able to get the cushions covered by insurance,” Balz said.

John Miller, who has used a wheelchair for about 18 years and was one of the first testers and is featured on the company’s website, was quoted in a recent press release as saying, “He digs at new in her garden and can visit her grandchildren for the first time”, thanks to the cushions.

The smart cushions are assembled locally by workers with disabilities in conjunction with Brevard’s nonprofit Brevard Achievement Center.

After meeting BAC President and CEO Amar Patel, Balz said he quickly learned the connection could be the perfect match.

“We are very excited about this new partnership and the growth of Kalogon,” Patel said. “We know that assembling this innovative product here will create opportunities that will inspire pride and showcase the skills of our employees with disabilities, while creating a cushion that helps injured veterans and other wheelchair users through the country.”

Kalogon’s smart pillows are custom made to each individual’s specifications and needs, and price starts at $2,000.

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