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Student team builds a new garden tool for a veteran

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Category: research Video duration: Student team builds a new garden tool for a veteran
Army veteran Tammy Landeen wanted to be able to work more easily in her garden, something that was difficult from her wheelchair. A team of seniors from the Department of Mechanical Engineering worked for a year, including starting all over at the halfway point, to get her what she needed. Sponsorship came from QL Plus.
My name is Tammy Landen and I'm an Army veteran. I am paralyzed from the waist down. And I have a challenge with QL Plus and Virginia Tech to build a, what we're calling a garden creeper. I enjoy being outside in the garden and I like to plant flowers and just do general lawn and yard maintenance and stuff like that. And from a wheelchair user standpoint, it's very difficult to reach the ground. So our challenge was to come up with a device that could be electronically powered that could transport me from my workshop over to my garden. Wouldn't get stuck in the ground on the grass or the soft dirt, and that is low enough to the ground that I can work from it without having to hang too far down so I have good reach to the surface. Initially, we met once a week at the start of the school year and we had concept design and prototyping. We started last year with the design phase. We spent about 16 weeks designing, working with supervisors and faculty, getting the design going. About halfway towards the end of the first semester, they realized that the product that they had was not going to function as we had hoped. And within our scope. Winter break, we had to go through and redesign it from scratch almost entirely, which was a huge endeavor. Then we got to work over winter break and had to put in a bunch of time to redesign, so that was a big obstacle. Long hours going to have to go into this. We were going to have to give up our Christmas break, give up time with our families. But we were willing to do it because we knew that this was going to an actual person and this was going to Tammy. We got in contact with InMotion and they were able to provide us with the electrical components and they actually were gracious enough to donate the motors and the motor controllers. Motors was definitely our biggest concern. It would've been the most priciest part of this project. Definitely the fact that we got them for free, the controllers as well as an application engineer that's helping us program lifted like a really big weight off our shoulder. We're very grateful for them. We got in contact with them when we were really lost as a team, honestly. So we didn't have any of the electrical components or anything. InMotion is located right in downtown Blacksburg. We're in the Virginia Tech community and so, Ut Prosim, we like to give back and contribute to the community as much as we can. We were kind of crunched on in terms of the budget, so that helped us design other aspects of the device that make the device more comfortable for Tammy. I didn't know if we would be able to necessarily finish the model, but with the help of a lot of teachers and advisors, it came together. It's really great to see Tammy here this weekend, seeing her actually use the device and there are still some minor things to fix. But overall, she's really happy with the way it's driving in the way that she's able to access her plants. I'm really looking forward to the end of the school year and having this device delivered. And it's going to be delivered just in time for spring gardening. And my flower bed has been neglected the last several years because it's just too much of a chore to really do anything with it. I'm super excited. I'm really pumped to get it home and get to put it to use, and know that it's not going to fail and leave me stranded.