Jay Martin: Breaking barriers with technology

Posted on 27. Aug, 2012 by in

Mechanical Engineering Professor Jay Martin

After a family accident provided personal perspective on the needs of people with disabilities, Martin changed his research focus to assistive technology. UW-CREATe employs faculty and students to work on community requests for devices that improve everyday life—everything from baby strollers to accessible skis.

“The goal of UW-CREATe is to provide technology to assist individuals with disabilities in being able to live independently and participate
in life to the fullest extent possible. This goal will not happen with existing technology. Many assistive technology devices aren’t safe. They are unreliable. They often don’t meet the intended design function.

Our sit-ski technology has brought me the most satisfaction. With the help of Isthmus Engineering, we’ve now built 350 sit skis for cross-country skiing. It’s such an amazing story, because people who were not engaged and not participating in life, had success on the sit-ski and it opened up all sorts of possibilities. There were people who all of a sudden became athletes and started thinking about employment. I think they just started having success, and they were able to do things they couldn’t imagine before.

I don’t think of innovation as a light bulb going off, or suddenly somebody having a brilliant idea. I subscribe to the Edison idea of innovation. If we frame the problem with enough care, and we keep questioning whether we understand it, and we follow a formal, rigorous process, we may end up with something where people say, ‘Wow, that’s innovative.’ The process, if followed with fidelity, is amazing in terms of what it will yield.”

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