CAMVETS: A Solution For One, A Solution For Many

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On April 25th, the culmination of months of planning came together just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, for the Challenge America: Makers For Veterans make-a-thon event, held at St. Edwards High School Lowe Institution for Innovation in Lakewood, OH. For those of you have followed our CAMVETS journey, you know that the Makers For Veterans event matches makers (those with programming, design, UI/UX, fabrication and other skills) with Veterans who face challenges such as PTSD and immobility, with the mission to create unique solutions that will not only improve the lives of those Veterans, but also others who face similar challenges.

The CAMVETS event could not have been more inspiring and affirming. Not only did it result in the solutions needed by our Veteran participants, but in many cases these new mechanical solutions and apps hold the possibility of refinement and iteration for introduction to a broader audience. Thank you to our volunteer makers, partners and supporters whose unwavering commitment and big-picture vision made CAMVETS happen: The Department of Veteran Affairs, Cleveland Clinic, NEOPAT, The Veterans Health Administration, St. Edwards School, HIMSS, Invacare, and Balance Innovation & Design were among our most strident supporters.

Below we’ve listed our teams, the challenges faced, solution created, and what’s in store for the future for each design. Here’s to the success of CAMVETS, and to its bright future in serving our Veteran community!

Team Chris

Challenge: Getting up from and down to floor to play with his baby. Chris is unable to crouch or get down on the floor. A soon-to-be father, Chris does not want to miss out on critical moments with his new daughter.

Solution: The team created a novel cane solution that helps him get up and down.

Says team project leader Mike Tracz: “I am fired up. It was an amazing experience and it felt good to be part of something. I felt like I contributed to doing something good, which is something I haven't felt in a while.”

Status: A provisional patent has been filed by the VA.

Team members: Chris Carter (Veteran participant), Mike Tracz (Balance Innovation & Design), Aidan Friederich (VA, Case Western Reserve University), Scott Rawlings (Tenneco / DRiV), Emily Szabo (Case Western Reserve University), Angela Payton (VA), Michael Fugate (Cleveland State University), Jason Grenfell (VA)


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I’ve regained confidence in my mobility and activity and a positive increase in my self-esteem and overall self-confidence. Everything the CAMVETS team did assuaged any fears I had and made it a lot easier to suck up my pride and really benefit, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I now have my hope back - hope for the future, hope that people care, and you proved that they do. I certainly want to be active and involved with future CAMVETS. You changed my life and allowed me to meet an amazing group of people I proudly call friends.
— Chris, CAMVETS Veteran

Team Brett

Challenge: Transferring between his handcycle and wheelchair. Brett loves to handcycle with his kids. He is looking for a device to help him to transfer himself from his wheelchair to his handcycle on his own.

Solution: The team created a motorized lift hitched on vehicle designed to transfer a body from wheelchair to handcycle and back up to the truck.

Status: The team continues to revise the prototype, and a patent is being discussed.

Team members: Brett Clingan (Veteran participant), Logan White (Invacare), Jeremy Culmer (Invacare), Nathan Kolli (Invacare), Pegah Zarandi (Invacare), Samantha Mingle (Invacare), Shan Blake (Invacare), Jessica Padilla (Cleveland State University)

Team James

Challenge: Two-arm stone lift. A disabled strength sports competitor, James Spurgin dreams of doing a two-arm stone lift despite having no function in his right arm.

Solution: Harness designed to allow person to lift a heavy stone with one arm.

Status: The team wants to continue working on the harness to further support James’ dream of lifting the Husafell stone.

Team members: James Spurgin (Veteran participant), Elle Marcus (Q-Lab Corporation), Brian Becker (VA), Benjamin Cooksey (Univeristy Hospitals), Sharie Renee (Cosmic Bobbins), Steven Fotion (Fotion’s Clubhouse Gym), Clay Kelly (VA), Miron Gotfryd (Nordonia High School)

Team Uzi

Challenge: Hand-stretching gloves. A Veteran of the Israeli Counter Terror Unit, Uzi is looking for a glove to provide pain relief and relaxation in his nerve-damaged hands while he sleeps.

Solution: The team created a dynamic orthotic that opens and stretches the fingers on an automated timer, and is designed to be used during the night.

Status: A provisional patent has been filed by the VA.

Team members: Uzi Patziniach (Veteran participant), Ilya Gotfryd, Steve Majerus (VA), Bryan Szloh (Cleveland State University), Jonathan Heifetz (Presque Isle Medical Technologies), Shlomo Heifetz (Presque Isle Medical Technologies), Alysia Klinger (Presque Isle Medical Technologies), Matt Williams (VA), Esther Gotfryd (Bellefaire JCB)

Team Todd

Challenge: Using his devices so that he can go back to school. Todd is a bilateral hand amputee and he is looking for a solution to be able to easily use his computer and phone so that he can start to pursue his goal of going back to school.     

Solution: The team incorporated multiple devices designed to enable a bilateral hand amputee to use his iPhone and Macbook more independently and to go back to school. Devices include:

  • magnetic lanyard to carry the iPhone around the neck

  • magnetic wristband to hold the iPhone to the ear (and therefore enable private conversations)

  • fingers for him to type on the keyboard with a capacitive finger tip to use the iPhone touch

  • stylus gloves and a plug adapter  

Status: The team will continue work on integrating multiple devices, and a provisional patent will be filed.

Team members: Todd Feemster (Veteran participant), Chuck Orzechowski (Team Red, White, and Blue), Jack Newman (Northeast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism), Paul Leimkuehler (Leimkuehler Orthotic & Prosthetic Center), Pete Whitworth (SmartShape), Barbara Milliken (Cleveland State Univeristy), Brian Anglin (NNortheast Ohio Foundation for Patriotism), Ben Kracker (Acumen Solutions), Dan Lastoria (Acumen Solutions), Stephen Weers (Acumen Solutions), Art Davis (VA)

Team Lee

Challenge: Controlling his devices without assistance. A Marine Corps veteran, Lee Tomlin is quadriplegic and would like to be able to control his devices  to read and watch movies without assistance.

Solution: Team Lee integrated a number of existing voice command systems on Google Home, Netflix, and others to allow him a greater degree of control and independence. The team is now working to create video tutorials we can share with other veterans.

Status: The team will continue work on integrating systems for Lee.

Team members: Lee Tomlin (Veteran participant), Anthony Mortimer (St. Edward High School), Martin Tarr (360 Alley), Coleman Isner (St. Edward High School), Justin Planovsky (St. Edward High School), Paige Erickson (Magnificat High School), Zach Molseed (St. Edward High School)

Team Ginger

Challenge: A tech companion to combat PTSD symptoms throughout her day. Ginger struggles with PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma and would like to have a technological solution that provides coping mechanisms at the right moments to guide her through her day.

Solution: The team created an Apple Watch and iPhone app called DiGi specifically designed for PTSD. The watch detects heart rate and notifies the user if the wearer sustains an elevated heart rate, sending encouraging messages and directing attention to slowing down the heart rate. It also uses geolocation to keep track of when the user goes to new places and applauds him/her for doing so. It also logs when user has a positive experience somewhere so that it can remind them of that positive experience.

Status: A provisional patent is in discussions.

Team members: Ginger McCutcheon (Veteran participant), Jonathan Morgan (Balance Innovation and Design), Claude Sutterlin (Acumen Solutions), Ralph Hoyt (Independent), Ben Forster (Acumen Solutions), Alex Kadis (Acumen Solutions), Miranda Lemmer (Balwin Wallace University), , Sherry Yelland (VA)


To learn more about the CAMVETS program, visit our CAMVETS program page.