Sit-skis debut in Madison - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Sit-skis debut in Madison

By Jeff Angileri - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Paralympic Games don't start until March 12th, but people in Madison already got a taste of the competition, when a local company unveiled some special cross-country skis.

They're the product of technological innovation, and made by people who want to make a difference.

Alaina Karpinski of Madison was injured in a horseback riding accident in the 1980's. This is her first time on skis since then.

"I thought it was cool! I definitely give it two thumbs up for people in my kind of situation," Karpinski said.

She is able to glide across the snow thanks to specially designed sit-skis.

"It allows you to get outside and go ahead and enjoy activities, not to be housebound or wheelchair bound all of the time," said Karpinski.

The skis are the made by Isthmus Engineering in Madison, with the help of Badger Bots, a high school robotics team.

The skis weigh less than 18 pounds, and cost about $340 to make, one-tenth the cost of professional sit-skis.

"The goal originally was to get about 50 of these made and donated across the country," said Ben Senson, Badger Bots lead mentor. "That has increased to 150."

The sit-skis debuted during Madison's WinterFest, and made a big impression.

"When I came out here with my niece, I said this just makes my heart sing," said Christine Guderyongoetz of Oregon Special Olympics.

"This would be a perfect addition to special Olympics for those athletes who use wheel chairs -- adaptive swimming, wheel chair races on the track," said Guderyongoetz.

It became a watershed moment for the ski's creators.

Said Senson, "Looking over and seeing ten empty wheelchairs and realizing that was ten people experiencing cross-country skiing for the first time."

For students like Arjun Seshadri, a reminder of why he wants to be an engineer.

"This is what's it's about -- getting into the community, helping others, and realizing the potential of technology and what it's capable of in solving people's everyday problems," Seshadri said.

The sit-skis' creators haven't decided whether to mass produce them.

They say they're too heavy to use for professional competition, but the U.S. and Canadian Special Olympics teams are interested in using them as training tools and a way to get people interested in the sport.

The sit-ski project was funded by a local attorney.

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