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Disabled Colorado Veterans Gain New Mobility Thanks to School of Mines Technology

Published: January 11, 2018 |

Joel Bach, Colorado School of Mines professor, shows Army veteran Tyler Wilson an adaptive mountain bike in the lab.

Joel Bach, Colorado School of Mines professor, shows Army veteran Tyler Wilson an adaptive mountain bike in the lab.
[Click image to enlarge]

Colorado School of Mines mechanical engineering student Megan Auger holds an aluminum prosthetic dancing foot.

Colorado School of Mines mechanical engineering student Megan Auger holds an aluminum prosthetic dancing foot.
[Click image to enlarge]

Disabled Army veteran Tyler Wilson always tried to keep his wheelchair from breaking his stride. And now, thanks to new technology being developed at the Colorado School of Mines, his independent streak is broadening.

“All of this is going to open new doors for me,” said the 33-year-old, whose spine was pierced by an insurgent’s bullet in Afghanistan in May 2005. Confined to a wheelchair, Wilson became immersed in adaptive sports, including hand-cycling in Colorado’s mountains.

Now he wants to take his 10-month-old son cycling and skiing with him. That’s why he agreed to get help from a lab at Mines, where students work exclusively to develop adaptive equipment to solve mobility challenges posed by veterans and first responders.

On Tuesday, Mines celebrated a $50,000 donation from the nonprofit Quality of Life Plus to enhance the lab. The funds will buy equipment for measuring, prototyping and fabricating innovative, custom devices to boost the independence of injured veterans, said Joel Bach, director of Mines’ Human Centered Design Studio.

“These are projects that can make a huge improvement in the lives of people who have sacrificed so much for your nation,” Bach said.

Thanks to the donation, the lab now uses 3-D technology to better analyze the body types of the veterans to make devices that suit each individual, Bach said. “Everybody is different, and everyone has different needs. We just don’t want to take a one-size-fits-all approach to something so important.”

Mines students, for instance, designed a manual wheelchair for Velette Britt, an Air Force veteran from Colorado Springs who is paralyzed from the waist down. Britt is a competitive hand-cyclist and avid skier whose goal is to compete in the Warrior Games and National Wheelchair Games.

The wheelchair allows her to traverse curbs and bumps in the city without having to do a “wheelie.”

“This is huge for me,” Britt said. “Sometimes just getting around a city like Denver is tough because some curbs are built to where I can’t get over them without help.”

Britt now wants the Mines team to design comfortable cranks for her hand cycle and attachments to allow her to ride in inclement weather.

The Mines students are also working on building a small trailer that Wilson can attach to his hand cycle so he can haul hiking equipment and his young son to the mountains.

“In that case, I wouldn’t have to ask for help,” Wilson said.

Mines is one of seven universities with whom Quality of Life Plus is partnering to produce assistive devices for veterans, said Quality of Life Plus founder Jon Monett.

“We selected Colorado School of Mines as a partner university because it is well known for its terrific engineering program and outstanding students.” Monett said. “There is no place better for us in this region than Mines, with its committed faculty and passionate students.”

Source: The Denver Post


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