Meet Morgan Kauss, CU Boulder Almuna and founder of Exo-Seat! The Exo-Seat is a powered wheelchair accessory that provides postural support and assists upper body movement for wheelchair users with limited trunk stability.
While attending CU Boulder, Morgan studied Mechanical Engineering with a Biomedical Focus. Morgan was involved in various student organizations, two including Engineers in Medicine (EnM) and the Engineering Leadership Program (ELP), where she obtained a leadership certificate.
The idea for the Exo-Seat came to Morgan when she was working as a caregiver for a local woman, Cindy, who has Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. During this time, Morgan identified a problem that was negatively impacting Cindy’s quality of life and sought out to fix it. Together, they came up with what is now Exo-Seat.
The Exo-Seat is a powered wheelchair accessory that provides postural support and assists upper body movement for wheelchair users with limited trunk stability. The Exo-Seat is intended to provide individuals with greater independent mobility, allowing them to move freely without constant assistance from caregivers.
Morgan has always been passionate about the medical field and helping others. During Morgan’s childhood, her mother had brain cancer. Morgan was inspired by her mother’s strength and gained a unique perspective on the field. This experience is the root of everything Morgan has achieved and will continue to accomplish.
The idea for the Exo-Seat came to Morgan when she was working as a caregiver for a local woman, Cindy Muir, who has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. During this time, Morgan identified a problem that was negatively impacting Cindy’s quality of life and sought out to fix it. Together, they came up with what is now the Exo-Seat.
Eventually, Exo-Seat was approved as a senior design project in the Mechanical Engineering department with the pro bono sponsorship of Tensentric, a local medical device company. The senior design company consisted of four electrical engineers and four mechanical engineers. Together they designed and manufactured the Exo-Seat’s first functional prototype with the guidance of Tensentric engineers and resources from the Mechanical Engineering department.
Morgan reflects on her experience with Cindy Muir that inspired the venture,
“Cindy Muir is an amazing woman in the local Boulder community with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. She is one of the strongest, most inspirational people that I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know and she has been one of my biggest influences. We worked together to come up with a solution and she is the one that encouraged me to continue with the project to help others in similar situations.”
Morgan began the Exo-Seat journey with Sonya Schuppan. Together, the duo sought funding and additional teammates through the EnM student organization. Morgan elaborates,
“Sonya is a brilliant electrical engineer and an extremely empathetic person who also shared my goal of improving Cindy’s quality of life.”
Currently, Ryan Weatherbee, a new member of the Exo-Seat team, is working on redesigning the product so that patients with other medical conditions and wheelchairs can also use the product. Morgan is also taking this time to focus on expanding the company with two mentors in Colorado’s SAGE program.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Exo-Seat team was unable to complete and deliver their final prototype to Cindy at the end of the semester. However, they were all selflessly willing to continue building the prototype for Cindy after graduation.
Advice for Current Students
Morgan provides the following advice:
“My advice to all students is to utilize the university resources to explore your passions and learn everything that you can. CU Boulder offers unlimited opportunities and if something you want to do does not currently exist, I encourage you to create it.
For those interested in entrepreneurship, I would suggest that you reach out to people in the community that need help. In my experience, the key to meaningful solutions is obtaining the perspective of those who would actually benefit from them.”