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ue May 17, 9:27 am ET

College graduates cheer as paralyzed student walks to get degree with robotic exoskeleton
By Liz Goodwin

A crowd of 15,000 cheered as UC Berkeley graduating senior Austin Whitney took seven steps with the help of a remarkable robotic exoskeleton to get his degree last week.

Whitney was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident in 2007, and has been a paraplegic ever since. Berkeley Professor Homayoon Kazerooni and a team of graduate students worked to design the robotic device Whitney operated via a switch on his walker to move toward Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to shake his hand.

"'If somebody told me four years ago that I'd be walking at this graduation, I would have never believed them in a million years," Whitney told ABC News. You can watch the video after the jump:

Whitney, who majored in history and political science, was the exoskeleton's first human test pilot, and the team named the device after him. "This team is so much more than just a group of researchers. They are my best friends at the university," he told Berkeley's news center. Most exoskeletons on the market cost about $100,000--the researchers are trying to make their model more affordable.

Whitney had been drinking when he crashed his car into a tree and severed his spinal cord four years ago; he now gives motivational talks about the dangers of drinking and driving

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