Robots for Humanity: Restoring Function to the Disabled Through Technology

While drones are often thought of as tools of war – or of fast package delivery, if you’re Amazon – a team of researchers at the Robots for Humanity project is working to put them to a much higher purpose: helping the disabled regain function. One very important member of their team is Henry Evans, who tests out the new technology and advises the researchers about the needs of the disabled. The reasons that Henry came to be working on this project, however, are very personal.

Up until the age of 40, Evans says he was living his version of the American dream. He grew up in what he describes as a typical American town near St. Louis, with a lawyer father, a homemaker mother and six siblings. Later, after he left home, he attended Notre Dame University, receiving degrees in accounting and German, and even spent a year studying abroad in Austria. He then completed his education by earning an MBA at Stanford University. Evans’ personal life was blissful as well. He married his high school sweetheart, Jane; and, together, they raised four beautiful children. As Evans worked his way up in his career, becoming the Chief Financial Officer in a Silicon Valley corporation, it seemed that nothing could mar his happiness. And, in December of 2001, the happy couple bought their first home: a fixer-upper in Los Altos Hills, CA.

They were excitedly looking forward to doing renovations on their home when, eight months later, tragedy struck. On August 29, 2002, Evans suffered from an attack called a brain stem stroke. The stroke occurred when a blood clot formed due to a birth defect, blocking off the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain stem. This caused the brain stem, which controls all voluntary movements, to die. The brain itself, however, was spared. The net result was that Evans was left suddenly mute and unable to move. Yet, his brain was still as sharp as ever.

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