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Nathan Ball

Inventor and Entrepreneur

“The more something fails, the more I can learn from it,” says Nathan Ball, an inventor, entrepreneur, athlete, musician, TV host, and cofounder of Atlas Devices, LLC. The company’s Atlas Power Rope Ascender is something you’d expect a superhero or a secret agent to possess, but it’s available for purchase only by government agencies and the military for combat, equipment-moving, and rescue operations. The tool, known in the military as APA, weighs only 17 pounds but can lift objects nearly 30 times as heavy. Users of the device can move as fast as 10 feet per second up and down the rope. And it works underwater.

At the age of 24, Ball became the youngest winner of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for his co-invention of the rope ascender and his work on a needle-free vaccine-delivery device. While at MIT, Ball also helped develop content for WGBH’s Emmy Award– and Peabody Award–winning show Design Squad, which he hosted from 2007 to 2010. Ball received both an MS and a BS in mechanical engineering from MIT. He is trained in classical piano, enjoys beatboxing, and set two MIT pole-vaulting records while he was a student there.

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