Brittany Horton is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Mechanical Engineering.  She chose Mechanical Engineering because, after doing some research with TAVR heart valves in high school, she knew that she wanted to go into the field of medical devices. Mechanical Engineering has given her the technical ability to pursue her passion.


She chose to work on a QL+ Challenge for her senior capstone project because of its uniqueness—it is mutually beneficial to both the student and the recipient of the student’s work.  She explains, “The application-based projects help students get real-world experience, while the results of the students' work positively affect a deserving individual.” 


Brittany and her team are working on a push-up/plank device for Army Veteran, Dawn Halfaker.  Dawn served as a Military Police Officer in the Army.  In 2004, during a combat patrol near Baghdad, she was wounded, which resulted in the amputation of her right arm and right shoulder.  Dawn maintains an active lifestyle and regularly trains with a personal trainer.  Her injury hinders her abdominal strength training.  Dawn requested an assistive device that would allow her to perform push-ups and support her as she planks.  Working on this Challenge for Dawn is personal to Brittany.  “I believe that we all have a responsibility to help others the best way we know how,” she adds, “Dawn has volunteered her efforts to serve our country, and we are excited to serve her by applying our engineering knowledge.”


For Brittany, the most difficult part of this QL+ Challenge is the fact that every person is different.  She explains, “There are a lot of variable factors that go into making a device that a human can use.  Everything from the sensitivity of one’s nerve endings to the exact location of their center of gravity.”  Despite these challenges, the benefits outweighed the difficulties.  “The biggest reward from working on this Challenge was getting to demonstrate that our product worked--we are proud that the work we put in will have a great impact on Dawn.”  Brittany will take the lessons she learned from the Challenge and apply them to her future career in medical devices.


She encourages other students and universities to get involved with QL+.  “It allows students to have the unique opportunity of designing for one specific individual,” she adds, “The product can be much more customized and is a great way to get young engineers thinking about how their skills can impact the people around them.”


After graduation, Brittany will head to Minneapolis, Minnesota to work for Boston Scientific in their Pacemakers Division.  Her goal is to help many people in her career through her skills as an engineer.  We do not doubt that she will reach her goal!