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Disabled Northeast Ohio veterans gain renewed sense of independence with help from engineers

Posted at 10:11 PM, Nov 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-09 23:33:20-05

CLEVELAND — In honor of Veterans Day weekend, ten Northeast Ohio veterans are getting some well-deserved help. They are working alongside engineers to build projects they hope will improve their day-to-day lives.

For Rob Morris, some everyday tasks require every bit of energy.

“If I stay at home, I’m limited on the amount of things that I can do,” Morris said. “If I have grip I’m able to do a lot of more things around the house, from exercising to opening doors to feeding myself.”

Morris served in the U.S. Army in the 1970s but just years later he was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed.

A “Challenge America” spokesperson said Morris made the perfect candidate for the organization’s Make-A-Thon challenge.

“Creating an exoskeleton solution,” Dallas Blaney said. “This is a 3-D printed device that goes over a veteran’s arm that allows them to grip objects more effectively, whether it’s a doorknob or a coffee cup.”

Noeen Kashif, an engineer on Rob’s design team, said this project will save the veteran money while keeping him from undergoing painful surgery.

“There’s prosthetic hands and exoskeletons that cost 40 to 50 thousand dollars, but we made this out of 10, maybe 15 dollars,” Kashif said.

He demonstrated how Rob’s new exoskeleton will function.

“Essentially Rob would put his fingers all the way through and it’s connected down over here and it’s through a motor,” Kashif said, “So you can see the linkages as I move my finger. The linkages straighten out and they bend back.”

Those who fought for our nation’s freedom said they are overwhelmingly appreciative for their renewed sense of independence.

“Things are going well now,” Morris said. “I think once this comes to fruition it’s really going to make a difference in my life.”

Engineers and the selected veterans will continue working on the projects on Sunday, Nov. 10 at St. Edward High School.

“Such a small percentage of our population raises their hand to volunteer and defend and serve our country,” Blaney said, “And we can’t think of any more noble calling than to dedicate ourselves to giving back to those who gave so much for us.”

The final projects will be unveiled on Veterans Day at Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation.