Rose-Hulman freshman uses tech-talent to help others

A freshman at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has turned his love of robotics into an affinity for charity.

With Freedom Chairs , Tim Balz, 19, retrofits wheelchairs for the physically challenged by harvesting parts from old, motorized wheelchairs to use in refurbished chairs for young and old.

"I've always loved to help people. My parents have always done a good job of teaching me not to just wait for someone to come to you with a need and try to fill the need," Balz said.

A need was filled for 15-year-old Aaron Laverty. He was born with a muscular disease called arthogryposis. Freedom Chairs provided a manual, lightweight, titanium chair so Laverty can get around better at Monrovia Middle School. They didn't actually make this chair, but they made it happen.

"If it wasn't for Freedom Chair I don't think I would have been able to get this kind of chair. I would have been miserable with the clunky old wheelchair that I had that kept falling apart," Laverty said.

Balz and 20 other students work for Freedom Chairs. They all work for free, for charity.

So far, 80 people have received wheelchairs but many more are in need. There is a tremendous inventory of parts that have been stockpiled to meet the demand.

"To know you are able to make a difference in someone's life. Especially our ages, it makes everything worth it just to see the smiles on the people's faces," Balz said.

Balz received the 2012 Hall of Fame award from the American Red Cross.

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