Earlier this summer, we shared with you the Innovation Creation Challenge Series hosted by the VA Center for Innovation. The center issued a challenge to makers and engineers to invent solutions for common issues affecting America’s Veterans, specifically those needing prosthetics and assistive technologies.

The challenge culminated last week in Richmond with a make-a-thon event. Over the course of two days, makers,students, designers and engineers ranging in age from 13 to 70 broke off into teams to solve specific problems presented to them by Veterans.

San Antonio native and Army Sergeant Lisamarie Wiley, who lost her lower left leg when she stepped on a mine in Afghanistan, presented one of the challenges.  Due to her height, she requires a different custom leg made for nearly every part of her life.

“I wanted to run. I wanted to walk. I wanted to jog, I wanted to get back into roller skates,” she said.  “I needed to be back in boots … to go back to active duty.”

Wiley now has 12 different legs, one for every aspect of her life.  Each leg is different, from purpose to fit, to size and shoe type. Changing her leg to keep up with what she is doing is difficult to say the least.

“I have one, maybe two sockets that fit perfectly … two sockets that fit out of my 12,” Wiley said.

With a lack of consistency in the legs’ fit, she is frustrated with the process and degree of difficulty it takes just to change from one prosthesis to another. She asked the makers to help come up with a device that standardizes the sockets for the multiple prostheses. And to find or invent a system to easily switch between her multiple legs.

Two days later the grand prize winners, Team Spline, did just that.

Matthew Kelly, Mihir Shelke, Jason Suh, Ausvin Khanna, Matt Baker and McGuire VAMC employee Rod Goode created a three-piece coupling system that would attach to the bottom of the socket, allowing Lisamarie, or any other Veteran, to change a lower leg prosthesis within minutes.  For Lisamarie, the outcome of this make-a-thon means more than a solution for her specific problem.

“What it means to me is, I can contribute a concept,” Wiley said. “It is a low cost, modular system that the world has access to,” she realized.

You can find out more about the make-a-thon online at this recap from the team at VA’s McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

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Published on Aug. 5, 2015

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