Friday March 23, 2018

UD Engineering Students Improve Veteran's Quality of Life

By Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications

Quality of Life Plus (QL+), a non-profit organization headquartered in McLean, Virginia, is sponsoring a capstone project at the University of Dayton (UD) that will dramatically improve a disabled veteran's quality of life.

 Four UD seniors are designing and building a "Treadmill Centering Device" as their capstone project for Air Force Veteran and blind athlete, Larry Gunter. Gunter, a QL+ "Challenger," is collaborating with the student team at the University of Dayton to create a device to allow him to safely and independently run on a treadmill, while using his full range of motion. The device will be lightweight, durable, portable and simple to use. Although this device will be designed specifically for Gunter, it has the potential to serve others.
 
QL+ student engineers develop novel technical solutions to assist and improve the quality of life for our wounded veterans and first responders.
 
"QL+ provides challenges for senior design and engineering students, allowing them to work directly with our wounded veterans, harnessing technology and common-sense engineering practices to improve their daily lives," said Quality of Life Plus Founder Jon Monett. "Larry Gunter's participation in the program is invaluable. He is giving our engineering students the opportunity to focus their passion and talent on helping our nation's heroes. Larry is helping us build better engineers."
 
Gunter trains at his local YMCA, three days a week. He often runs on the treadmill but is forced to hold onto the rails to stay centered. This makes running difficult because he is unable to move his arms in the natural running motion. 
 
"The opportunity to work with student engineers to create a device to allow me to run on a treadmill independently while using my full range of motion is exciting. I hope that using this device will inspire other blind people to be active and try things," said Gunter, who is training to hike the Appalachian Trail this summer.
 
The student engineers began working on this project in September 2017. They are testing prototypes and are looking forward to meeting Gunter April 4-5 at UD when Gunter travels from his home in Georgia to meet the students to test  the device and provide feedback. 

"We work with engineering programs that are respected globally," Monett added. "QL+ is excited to work with the University of Dayton. We are very impressed with the faculty support and the students working on Larry's project. They are dedicated and passionate about the work, and it shows."

Throughout the academic year, QL+ mentors, monitors and supports the collaboration between the veterans and the student teams. At the conclusion of the academic year, the student teams formally present the completed assistive device or modified hardware to the veterans for use in their daily life. Each project is unique, and the innovations created give the veterans the confidence and independence to engage in the activities they enjoy.  While these assistive devices are tailored to the needs of the individual participating veteran, the solutions frequently help other injured veterans.   
 
QL+ is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, with its major lab at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, California. It also has a dedicated lab at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Established QL+ programs also operate at Virginia Tech, the University of Dayton, Xavier University, University of California, San Diego, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and this fall, at the University of Cincinnati.     

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