Nate Ball

Nate Ball hosts the PBS show Design Squad and invents gadgets inspired by Batman.

You may know him as the host of PBS’s Design Squad, or for his guest appearances on The Discovery Channel in programs like Mythbusters. These days Nate Ball is an engineer on the go, whether he’s creating useful gadgets or teaching himself to do a back flip off a wall (see the video below for a demonstration). Nate received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from M.I.T., where he studied mechanical engineering - when he wasn’t busy being an NCAA All-American pole-vaulter, that is.

Most recently he invented the ATLAS Ascender, a rope-climbing device that allows people to quickly scale the faces of cliffs and buildings in a Batman-like fashion. This gravity-defying invention is already in use by the US Army and countless rescue squads, and won Nate the 2007 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Student Innovation.

Says Nate of confronting his less successful experiments: “The more something fails, the more I can learn from it.”

His words of inspiration for young engineers? “Anytime you’re a little bit scared, but you make yourself do and and push yourself through”¦and you come out on top — that’s the greatest feeling ever.”

Photo credit: WGBH / Anthony Tieuli