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Elle Marcus assists in creating device for local Veterans at the Challenge America Make-A-Thon

Posted: 6/4/2019

Elle Marcus, Technical Marketing Project Specialist at Q-Lab, recently participated in Challenge America’s Make-A-Thon in Cleveland, OH. The event partners veterans with disabilities with teams of highly skilled individuals across many fields, including engineers, software programmers, physical therapists, and more. The teams are tasked with creating solutions to help address each veteran’s unique challenge. 


Elle’s team was matched with veteran James Spurgin, a disabled strength sports competitor and former United States Marine Corps Sergeant.  Despite having no function in his right arm, James dreams of doing a two-arm lift of the legendary Húsafell stone (replica), a 409-pound stone located in Húsafell, Iceland. Athletes come from all over the world to lift this stone and carry it to demonstrate strength and endurance.

The team met with James and discussed a simple idea: a strap that would allow him to lift the Húsafell stone with one arm. After much planning, the team created a simple nylon strap with prosthetic gripping fabric on the underside. The outside was outfitted with loops that would allow James to put the strap around the stone and hold onto the loops with his left hand. This would allow him to pick up the stone and carry it (or drop it) with ease, limiting the risk of injury. The team tested the strap on a steel replica of “the stone” used for training purposes. The steel stone-shaped container can be filled with sandbags to incrementally increase the weight. 



With James now outfitted with his new stability strap, he plans to begin training to lift the Húsafell stone replica and is one step closer to achieving his dream! 


Because the strap for Team James mainly required industrial sewing after the initial design phase, Elle felt her talents as a Mechanical Engineer would be best utilized on a different team. For the remainder of the event, Elle was a member of Team Chris. Chris served in the Army for 7 years, from 2003-2010, as an 88M Motor Transport Operator with 3 deployments. He was injured in Kandahar when he was thrown from a truck after it hit an IED. As a result of his injuries, Chris has limited mobility. Chris and his wife are expecting their first child in July, and his team was tasked with creating a device that would allow him to easily get up and down from the floor to play with his new baby. 

Team Chris created two cane-like devices that keeps him stable when moving up and down from the floor – one tripod-type cane and one automatically retracting cane. Elle assisted with the automatically retracting cane. The front legs kick outwards, while a stability bar drops down to the floor when the legs are released. When simply using the device as a cane, the cane’s stability bar and legs automatically retract into place. Team Chris was able to use the Innovation Center at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, OH to create the parts they needed to build the cane prototype. The cane was such a success that Elle and her team were able to apply for patent, on which her name will be listed!

Q-Lab is proud of Elle and the work she contributed to Challenge America and to these veterans. We look forward to having more employees participate in the future. 

Read more about Challenge America here.

A article about the event can be found here.

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