Accelerating Development of New Technologies for Veterans

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Accelerating Development of New Technologies for Veterans

Summary: 
On the anniversary of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, the President's Science Advisor John Holdren meets with and highlights communities and regions that are using the tool to take action on climate where it matters most.

Imagine losing your ability to use everyday objects like your phone, computer, or microwave. Imagine not being able to continue a beloved hobby, such as photography. These are some of the challenges faced every day by many of our nation’s Veterans.

In an effort to bring together diverse individuals to gather and crowdsource ideas surrounding personalized technologies to better care for our Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is hosting the first VA Innovation Creation Series for Prosthetics and Assistive Technologies. Powered by the VA Center for Innovation, this initiative aims to facilitate the development of tailored technologies to improve care and quality of life for Veterans and their supporters.

“VA has long been at the forefront of research and technology, discovering new ways to give our Veterans the best care possible,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “We’re reaching out to technology leaders in the corporate world and to the public in order to find creative new solutions to help transform care and quality of life not only for our Veterans, but for the public at large. The innovations that come out of this challenge will benefit the Veterans we care for and will be open source to help advance American medicine.”

Meet some of the incredible Veterans that inspired this challenge.

Calling all engineers, designers, and problem solvers – join us in tackling this challenge to make life easier for differently-abled Veterans and their supporters! 

To enhance our ability to generate solutions, the Creation Series for Prosthetics and Assistive Technologies is utilizing the open innovation platforms Innocentive and GrabCAD to help harness the expertise, skills, and passion of the public. The series focuses on the following challenges:

  • Developing novel upper and lower extremity devices for daily use.
  • Designing a medication pillbox that is able to hold medications that need to be taken up to 8 times a day and can also remind users when to take each dose.
  • Building a device that can dampen tremors when someone is performing fine motor tasks.
  • Designing a device to remotely change the speed and grip strength of a prosthetic device for Veterans with upper-extremity injuries.
  • Finding a way to reassign motions and buttons on gaming controllers to provide alternative access for veterans who are using them in therapy to improve eye-hand coordination, fine motor control, and/or range of motion. 

The VA Innovation Creation Series believes in the power of open innovation to help us address tough problems, specifically through incentive prizes and collaboration with innovators from across the country. These challenges seek input from the rapidly growing “maker community.” The maker movement has shown the enormous potential of a range of 21st-century technologies, such as 3D printing, including the ability to greatly personalize devices according to body type, tasks, or specific needs—which will now be extended to better serve Veterans. 

Testing out a prosthtetic arm for a wheelchair as part of the first VA Innovation Creation Series for Prosthetics and Assistive Technologies (Photo credit: VA Palo Alto Health Care System).

This series is part of the President’s broader strategy to better support our nation’s Veterans, which includes using engineering and technologies that advance healthcare that is personalized, proactive, and patient-driven, and that engage and inspire Veterans to their highest possible level of health.

Yet Veterans are just one of the many communities that will benefit from the contributions of this challenge. At the end of the series, the designs will be open-sourced for public use, enabling anyone to tailor the designs for implementation within their own community. The goal is for the challenge to inspire our “Innovation Nation” to utilize 21st-century technology to improve access to new prosthetic and assistive technologies for everyone who can benefit from them. It’s benefits like these that have motivated the Administration to support the increasingly sophisticated and ambitious uses of public sector prizes and challenges like this series.

After kicking off at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System on May 15, the Creation Series for Prosthetics and Assistive Technologies is now headed to the National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C. on June 12 and 13 as part of the Week of Making from June 12 – 18. During this time, designers, engineers, and anyone else who’s interested can contribute their design solutions to the specific challenges via the Innocentive and GrabCAD platforms. Check out our website to find out the exact launch dates of each of the challenges.

The series will culminate in a two-day “make-a–thon” event open to the public at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, VA on July 28 and 29, where the design solutions submitted online will be built and tested to see how they meet the needs of Veterans.

Accompanying the series on this journey across the US is the Ipsos’ Girls Lounge, a “pop-up box” that provides a social space for thinkers, makers, entrepreneurs – anyone, really! – to interact. The lounge will teach participants how to use prototyping equipment for developing innovative technologies, with a special focus on inspiring girls and women to learn to use 21st-century technologies to benefit our Veterans and the public at large.

The time is now to make a difference! Join us in developing these prosthetics and assistive technologies.

Click here to learn how to get more involved in the Prosthetic & Assistive Technology Challenge, as well as other activities sponsored by the VA Innovation Creation Series.

Ryan Panchadsaram is Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Stephanie Santoso is Senior Advisor for Making at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Andrea Ippolito is a Presidential Innovation Fellow working with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program is currently on the lookout for the most talented innovators and technologists to work on our nation's most pressing challenges. Acting as a small team alongside Federal agency “co-founders,” Fellows will serve for 12 months as entrepreneurs-in-residence, working quickly and iteratively to turn promising ideas into game-changing solutions. Interested? The first step is to apply online (use referral code “Draco” on your application).