SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Early in the morning, he’s working at a Siouxland Menard’s, but a Marine Corps veteran dedicates the rest of his time to a start-up business that’s not only helping his own son with special needs, but an entire community.
You might have heard of The Miracle League, an organization that provides recreational opportunities for those with disabilities. They serve hundreds of athletes in the Siouxland community. Many more may soon be able to participate thanks to the work of one man and the inspiration his son Kayden is providing.
“We have a child that is special needs ourself. And trying to get equipment and funding for just every day things for individuals like that is a huge struggle. So, we just decided to start it on our own, and it took off really good. So, now we do it to try to change the market of adaptive technology,” said Dustin Rhoades.
That’s how Ability Tech was born. And since Kayden was a little boy, he’s loved baseball.
“The past four years, I’ve had to hit the ball for him and stuff and I thought, ‘There has got to be a better way for him to hit the ball on his own terms.’ So, we started out designing, and prototyping, and we finally ended up with the ‘Switch Hitter, ‘which has really taken Ability Tech off,” said Rhoades.
Rhoades explained what the ‘Switch Hitter’ does.
“So this piece here, you’d bring it back and it would lock into place. And once it’s locked, the individual can take a switch of any sort, my son uses it by hitting it with his head, you can use feet, arms, wherever, and once he hits the button, it just powers the solenoid that releases the bat and allows him to hit on his own terms,” Rhoades said.
On his own terms, and in his own colors.
“Everything is customized, to the colors, to the names because one of the other downsides of the market now is the lack of individualism. So there’s no standard color, we’ll 3-D print anything they’d like, color-wise,” said Rhoades.
And believe it or not, Rhoades, the founder and owner of Ability Tech, is still new to the 3-D printing world.
“So 3-D printing is new to me, and it had been all the way until we started Ability Tech,” Rhoades said.
It all starts on the computer.
“So here is kind of how it starts out, it’s kind of just shapes and then you can give it life and dimension and change the color and everything,” said Rhoades.
And with the low cost of materials plus an in-house operation, Rhoades donates his labor and keeps the price tag as low as possible for his customers.
“The neat thing about 3-D printing is you start off with just this plastic reel, it brings it down here and it melts it, and forms it down here into a thing,” Rhoades said.
Rhoades said Ability Tech solves another problem with the current market. Parents right now are paying a high price for a retro-fitted toy that no other child can use.
“We make it switch activated, but we also do it in a way in which the toy is still usable in its original condition. That way, if you’ve got other kids, it can be interchanged between them,” said Rhoades. “We just charge for what that little adapter costs, which they love, because if you look at the market for example, if a toy is $30, it’s now $60 or $70, just because they’ve adapted it for that market.”
Between making custom adaptations for toys, the ‘I-CAN’ can holder and the ‘Switch Hitter,’ Rhoades has been busy helping all Siouxlanders play and stay active in the best way they can.
“We’re here for the individual, we’re not here for the profit. We’re really trying to change the market from the way it is now,” Rhoades said.