Local News

Jul 21, 2014 11:10 PM by Victoria Johnson, KSBY News

Cal Poly students create device to give an athlete the chance to compete

The 35th Annual San Luis Obispo Triathlon is less than a week away. The Mechanical Engineering and Kinesiology Departments at Cal Poly are getting involved to give one athlete the chance to compete.

Athletes with disabilities who are unable to participate in the swimming portion of a triathlon are now able to complete the full race with a floating device designed by Cal Poly students. It gives the athlete the chance to experience the race from the same view as all the other competitors.

"He's my best buddy. We do everything together. We run. We walk. We are real active," says John Cornelius, a SLO Triathlon competitor, describing his son, Joseph.

He says there isn't any downtime in his house.

"When we run, when we walk, he just is at peace. His body relaxes. He hears the noises, feels the breeze. I want him to live life and I want him to be able to experience everything possible," says Cornelius.

His 20 year old son, Joseph, has cerebral palsy. He can't walk or talk but not much slows them down. They run up to 1,500 miles per year. This year they signed up for a triathlon.

"He loves the water. He is just getting so big and so strong, it is a challenge for me to let him be free in the water," says Cornelius.

Cal Poly students Paul Sands, Andrea Voigt and Lilly Hoff created the Aquabullet to give Joseph the chance to compete with his dad.

"Hey punkin' pie," says Cornelius to his son, Joseph.

"It (the Aquabullet) puts Joseph in a prone position like you would be swimming. He is then propped up onto a headrest kind of like a mini boat," says Hoff.

Each swimmer on Team Joseph will take turns pulling him on the half mile swim. The experience of being in the water is a type of therapy.

"He is so relaxed now. His feet are just so flexible. Normally he is so tight and rigid. We use our legs and he uses his heart and spirit. That is what makes our team whole," says Cornelius.

The team, made up of family and friends, all pull together to create an amazing opportunity for Joseph.

"I can tell in his eyes that he beams with pride that he has done something special. You did awesome punkin.' Best boy in the whole world," says Cornelius.
The three Cal Poly students created the Aquabullet as their senior project. They are giving it to Joseph to keep. Joseph's dad, John, hopes other athletes like his son will also have a chance to compete with the use of a device like the Aquabullet.

Joseph and his dad will be competing in the San Luis Obispo Triathlon this Sunday at Sinsheimer Park. They plan on competing in more races in the fall.

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