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Best of the Week 2018-2019: Teaching to the Future


St. Edward High School teamed up with Challenge America, Cleveland Clinic Innovations and the VA Northeast Ohio Health Care System to help launch Challenge America: Makers for Veterans (CAMVETS) on April 25-27 in the Joseph & Helen Lowe Institute for Innovation. Challenge America, a nonprofit based in Colorado, created CAMVETS to seek innovative solutions for injured veterans with the help of engineering and design professionals. This program matched participating veterans with a designated technical team to create devices that will address their individual challenges and improve their daily lives. By launching the make-a-thon component of the CAMVETS program at St. Ed's, veterans and their teams utilized the work spaces and makerspaces of the Innovation Center to collaboratively ideate and use robust machines, labs and materials to help with any engineering needs.

Co-organized by Computer Science teacher and CAMVETS team member Mr. Anthony Mortimer, the CAMVETS Make-a-thon was a collaborative effort with help from Mr. Matt Falk '98, Mr. JC Froelich '08, Mr. KC McKenna '00, Mr. Nick Kuhar, Mr. Steven Marcus and Mr. Paul Mocho '85. St. Ed's students and faculty members showed their hospitality by welcoming veterans, professionals and engineers to Cleveland while also participating in the hands-on work that went into designing aid devices that aren't currently available for these veterans. "My role was to work with the engineers to facilitate use of the school equipment and help with the design and manufacturing of parts for many of the projects. Notably, I helped machine fittings for the hand-relaxing glove for Uzi and the magnetic phone lanyard for Todd," says Mr. Falk. As a member of an Israeli counter-terrorism unit, Mr. Uzi Patziniach's team worked to create a hand-relaxing glove that he could wear to help relieve pain in his hand. Mr. Todd Feemster, an Army veteran and bilateral hand amputee, was in need of a device that could assist him with using his phone or computer with ease in the hopes of returning to school to further pursue his education. "I most enjoyed the networking aspect of the whole event. Getting to talk to both the veterans, engineers and designers and learn about their experiences interacting with technology was really interesting," says Mr. Falk.

"By contributing to the CAMVETS make-a-thon, my fellow Edsmen and I were able to collaborate creatively with a team to find solutions for these veterans in need and connected with professionals to achieve that common goal," says Justin Planovsky '19. "The most enjoyable part of participating in the make-a-thon for me was watching Lee smile as he used his tablet all on his own, showing his wife Robin his new ability." Lee Tomlin is a quadriplegic veteran who sustained a spinal cord injury and lost all control in his legs, arms, back and neck. Coleman Isner '19, Zach Molseed '19 and Justin worked together on Team Lee to program a tablet so that Lee could access it through verbal command. "I really enjoyed working with the veterans and engineers on such a valuable project. There is no greater experience than building a relationship with American heroes and seeing the impact you have had on their lives," says Coleman. "Through this experience, I learned that our world is not really designed for those with disabilities. Before this event, we tried to control our own electronic devices with just our voices. The process was infuriating - you have nowhere near the versatility required to properly use apps, watch videos or do the many actions we take for granted. Many companies such as Amazon design apps that have control features far more complex than pushing a button. Anything that requires a swipe or other complex actions is a limiting factor and many products are not designed with the disabled in mind. The current trend of development leaves function behind design and strips some of their own autonomy. Projects like the CAMVETS Make-a-thon make us critically aware of these shortcomings and motivated myself and others to solve these issues. This reminds me of a quote from the 'Labyrinth' Town Hall that was held this week, 'Empathy is a 21st century skill.' This concept was extremely prevalent at the make-a-thon and is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life."

Challenge America plans to return to St. Ed's Innovation Center this fall to hold another make-a-thon and increase the number of veteran participants. Check out Challenge America's blog post about their partnership with St. Ed's and the three articles published by that focus on the CAMVETS event, the collaboration between veterans, engineering teams and St. Ed's and the final solutions that were created to improve the lives of these veterans.

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