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Student receives patent for device improving mobility for child with cerebral palsy

University of Dayton senior Spencer Janning will graduate college with a diploma as well as leave with a patent and Food and Drug Administration registration for his Freedom Brace, a device that's making life easier for one Dayton-area child.

Janning designed the Freedom Brace for Lianna Bryant, who has cerebral palsy and needs to sleep with a device to keep her legs from crossing in a way that could cause hip problems. Other options the family tried were awkward and restricted movement. 

“I needed to figure out how a device could have more motion, be more comfortable, and still prevent twisting,” said Janning, a UD mechanical engineering student.

The brace now is available for sale on Amazon and freedombrace.com for $195. While the FDA registered the brace as a Class 1 medical device, similar to what is required for a tongue depressor or arm splint, Janning still is working on getting approval for coverage by medical insurance.

"In the spring of 2016, I challenged a group of engineering students at the University of Dayton to design a better leg abductor for my daughter," said Utawna Leap. "Of all the designs, the prototype that Spencer Janning made wasn’t just an interesting concept, but it worked from day one. Lianna loved it and refused to wear her current prescribed model. Since Lianna has no cognitive delays and is very opinionated, I didn’t doubt her for a second. Spencer’s design kept her legs from scissoring but unlike other designs currently on the market, his design allowed for more movement while still keeping her legs separated."

Leap showed the Freedom Brace to Lianna's physical therapist who said she was pleased with the design and agreed that it provides the necessary movement of Lianna’s legs and hips.

"When you hear from parents and see how it helps improve their child's quality of life," Spencer said. "It makes all the work worth it."

Janning received the support of the University of Dayton School of Engineering's Leonardo Enterprises, a new business incubator and investment program for all UD students, faculty and staff who want to start their own technology-based businesses. Leonardo Fellows have access to lab and office space, the School of Engineering Makerspace, engineering and legal support, and one-on-one business mentoring.

"Spencer's project is the story of how we hope Leonardo Enterprises will go — from hatching an idea to providing a boost to taking flight. This is Leonardo Enterprises' first patent, and Spencer is the first to launch online sales," said Emily Fehrman Cory, Leonardo Enterprises director. "We helped him navigate roadblocks with the FDA and make the right contacts with The Entrepreneurs Center.

"Spencer saw something great in what he was doing and kept going with it. Amazing things will continue to come out of this research."

If the Janning name is familiar in inventors’ circles, it's because great-uncle John Janning is the holder of 70 U.S. patents and member of the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame. He invented the LCD display and Staylit Christmas lights, which have tiny microchips in each light socket keep the string lit even if a bulb is damaged or missing. And grandfather Eugene Janning, a University of Dayton alumnus, is a cofounder of Northrop Grumman Corp. subsidiary Xetron, and founder of Pole/Zero, which designs and manufactures radio frequency filters to control radio frequency interference. 

"My family has been extremely helpful in getting the Freedom Brace to those who need it for relief from the daily pain and discomfort caused by cerebral palsy," Spencer said. "They especially taught me to not let the fear of making mistakes stop me from taking chances to accomplish this goal."


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