Bethlehem Startup Gaining National Attention for Design of Skis for Paraplegic Athletes
By Colin McEvoy on September 22, 2015
After a Lehigh University student was rendered paralyzed from the waist down after a mountain biking accident ten years ago, Lehigh University mechanical engineering professor Joachim Grenestedt paid him a visit at a ski resort in upstate New York.
He didn’t like what he saw. Skiing equipment was available for the paraplegic student, but much of it was broken, and Grenestedt could immediately tell that even the functional equipment could be improved upon.
That’s when Grenestedt and his Lehigh colleague, William Maroun, designed an improved version of the monoski, a type of ski with a seat and specially-developed suspension for users with physical disabilities.
“Top racers are now using and loving our products,” said Channy Tokura, Grenestedt’s wife, and the founder of DynAccess, the Bethlehem-based company that designs and manufactures the monoskis. “People in the industry think of us as one of the most advanced, technically-savvy companies, and without support from the Southside Bethlehem KIZ, we wouldn’t be here.”
DynAccess began in 2011, and launched its first commercialized monoski the same year after receiving a Technology Transfer Grant from the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ). The company is currently based in Pi: Partnership for Innovation, a Bethlehem startup business incubator.
Earlier this month, DynAccess received another $15,000 grant from the KIZ board, which includes representatives from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). This grant will go toward the development of a new high-performance monoski model tailored specifically for racing, rather than just recreational skiing.
The Bethlehem startup has become recognized as one of the most advanced monoski manufacturers in the United States, and has become a major monoski supplier for the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski Team and the U.S. Paralympic Development Team.
Top athletes in this field have also used and endorsed the product, including Tyler Walker, one of the top-ranked Paralympic skiers in the country, and Chris Devlin-Young, a five-time winter Paralympic medalist. Both Tyler and Devlin-Young are members of the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski national team.
“I have been adaptive skiing for 31 years and seen most all equipment,” Devlin-Young said. “DynAccess is a company committed to the safest, strongest, long-lasting, and — as I’m a racer — the fastest monoski ever made. The attention to detail, from the rig to customer service, is beyond compare.”
Tokura said the KIZ has been a tremendously helpful tool for the small startup. The initial grant was crucial in covering investment costs to design the product, and DynAccess has also benefitted from KIZ internship grants that allowed them to design and manufacture prototype parts very quickly.
“We also outsource things like parts-making, welding, and powder coating to outside companies, and the Lehigh Valley offers a wide array of really great manufacturing companies,” Tokura said. “It’s an excellent place to be.”
Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator, said DynAccess is a great example of an innovative technology that originated out of Lehigh University and has been fostered in part by the wealth of entrepreneurial resources available to startups in Bethlehem, namely the Southside Bethlehem KIZ and Pi.
“DynAccess is one of those companies that easily elicits excitement,” Schiavone said. “For me, it evokes a huge sense of national pride knowing that they are a major supplier to the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski team.”
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