As the weekend wound down at the Challenge America Makers for Veterans event, and the makers got ready to display their solutions, it was clear that beyond the technologies designed, real bonds have been formed among the teams. Bonds that ultimately lead to such unique and personal solutions, and while the technology is specifically designed – the magnitude is greater than just the person intended.
Solutions designed and developed to solve real problems for veterans with varying life-disrupting disabilities. Simple tasks that most of take for granted – like the ability to easily play with your child, accomplish a daily task, have your own independence, and just to be able to conquer your fears. And while that seems like it would be easy – the customization of the solution to the veteran was all but simple. Each team has had to work through the pros and cons of their solution and tweak the technology to make it the right fit for their vet.
Even though the technologies developed were amazing and offered the solutions that the veterans needed, what was more profound was the relationships formed between the makers and the vets. As you spoke with each team, you got the sense that there was a personal connection between everyone – a connection that would surpass this event. Most of the makers had spent countless hours in development and even spent time with their veteran, to really get an idea of the need and impact a solution would provide. Many makers commented on the direct access to the person(s) receiving the technology was different for them because most of the time in the invent process there is the solution but you don’t have that personal connection to the intended recipient. Having that link here led to some amazing benefits for the veterans and their families.
At the conclusion of the three day Make-A-Thon, there was a sneak peek at the innovative life-changing solutions developed for the veterans at the Closing Ceremony. Hosted at HIMSS Innovation Center, on April 27th, a crowd of participants and supporters got a chance to meet the makers, veterans and their families, and learn about their technology and the journey in creating them.
At the close of the ceremony, three awards were announced. The first award was the Veteran Impact Award, given to the team who developed a solution that would have the greatest impact on the veteran. Team Brett was awarded this honor due to their technology provided Brett, who suffers from adult-onset leukodystrophy with ataxia, the ability to move himself from his wheelchair to his hand-cycle. In addition, the technology will allow him to transfer himself to other objects, thus creating independence for him. The second award was the Creative Design Award, this was given to Team Todd. Team Todd developed a voice recognition software that will assist Todd, a bilateral hand amputee, with going back to school. And finally, the Attendee Choice Award that was created to honor the team that the attendees of the program voted on. Team Ginger was received this award for their work to create a technology that would provide Ginger, a veteran who suffers from PTSD, with a device that would help her to monitor her heart rate and activate calming images when she feels an attack coming on. While these awards may have been given, the entire program was a success. Each veteran has walked away from this program, moment, with a since of hope and solution to a problem they feared may never be solved. And most of all, these solutions could be of use to someone else.
Everyone left with the feeling of needing more programs like that, and we are glad to say that this is just the first of a 2 year pilot, conducted in the spring and fall, and will be back in just a few months. Stay with us, for more details and the opportunity to lend your experts and experience to the cause, or better yet to people who would benefit from having the access to it.