Opening Doors

IDSA Members Changing Lives & Experiencing Empathy

These guys have opened a doorway for me that I thought was locked."
--Shanan LaFeat, US Army veteran

Auburn University IDSA Student Chapter Faculty Advisor Jerrod Windham, associate professor of industrial design, and his industrial design students are changing lives. 

This year, Windham, who is IDSA's former Young Educator of the Yearalong with IDSA Student Members Leigh Anne Alfano, Abby Hinson and Hannah Conrad—helped amputees such as Shanan LeFeat and Tom Dowling regain mobility.

US Army Veteran LeFeat lost her left arm in a motorcycle crash in 2009. Now, with a new prosthetic arm, she’s playing the cello again. Dowling lost his right thumb, index and middle fingers in a fireworks accident in 2015. A new prosthetic device gives him back the use of his hand.

"By working directly with volunteer participants, students experience empathy in a way that's uniquely relative to the other studio courses we offer at Auburn," says Windham.

“This project has been the most rewarding experience, and I'm honored to have been a part of it. I have been able to see firsthand that design can truly have an incredible influence in an individual’s life,” says Alfano.

Hinson echoed the sentiment. "It was rewarding to give something back to someone who has given so much for us."

“Being able to work with such an incredible team and an incredible client, Shanan, was one of the most eye-opening moments I have ever experienced," adds Conrad. "To be able to give Shanan the ability to return to something she loves brought us much joy and knowing we helped is even more satisfying.” 

The 3D printing program also teams industrial design students from Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction with Chad Duncan at Alabama State University’s Department of Prosthetics and Orthotics, and licensed prosthetists. The designs are still being refined. And in LeFeat’s case—even more collaboration—as she improves her cello performance with the help of Guy Harrison, assistant professor of string music at Auburn.

Windham says Auburn has been running a collaborative studio designing assistive technology for nine years. In past years, non-prosthetic, assistive tech devices were designed for those with disabilities. This is the first year Auburn has focused on 3D printing and prostheses.

Read more in Opelika-Auburn News.