Science and Technology News

Saturday, January 19, 2013

AF Academy cadets demonstrate prototypes built of toys

by Staff Sgt. Maria Boman
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

1/18/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Children's toys can become tools used by adults to create an object with the goal of making a difference in the lives of others. Scott AFB, Ill., served as a guiding hand in that process for seven U.S. Air Force Academy cadets Jan. 15, 2013.

Since August, a group of senior cadets from the Academy have been designing patient loading prototypes to improve the current system medical personnel use to transport a patient into an aircraft more safely and easily. This project serves an Air Force need.

"The current patient loading system needs to be replaced with safer equipment for medical personnel and patients," said Maj. Samantha Treadwell, Air Mobility Command Aeromedical Evacuation Medical Modernization officer in charge. "Currently, parts have to be taken off of one PLS to fix another because the parts can no longer be ordered."

The prototypes needed feedback from the people it would serve. So, three students visited the 375th AES conference room at Scott for the first patient loading system capstone workshop.

"One of the major issues with numerous design projects is that engineers design something the customer does not want," said Maj. Cody Rasmussen, the Academy's engineering mechanics department advisor. "Our goal is to avoid that common and critical error at all costs."

The cadets gave a verbal presentation on their prototypes design construction, analysis and testing. Then, using prototypes made of wood, metal and colorful interlocking plastic bricks, they presented their potential PLS replacement design concepts, including different lifts and means of elevating patients into a plane. The medical personnel tested the prototypes and provided feedback on advantages and disadvantages.

"Without inputs from the AE members, we have no guidance for what needs to be improved," said Cadet 1st Class Hayden Richards, who's only had about two hours of evacuation experience. "We hope to mesh our ideas together."

With more than 2,000 hours of combined experience, the 375th AES participants moved theory into a practical system.

"Bringing AF Academy cadets here for collaboration allows for maximum feedback from those in the field," Treadwell said. "The 375th AES is the pilot unit for all Air Force aeromedical evacuation issues, and it's critical the medical personnel are involved in the process."

The workshop was not just beneficial to the cadets working on this project--it's also important for the medical personnel who will use the new PLS in the future because Air Mobility Command's aeromedical evacuation mission transports wounded and injured service members to critical care hospitals far away from the battle space.

"One day, one of their inventions will be what we use," said Maj. Michelle Wyche, 375th AES clinical management flight nurse.

Safety is very important to members of Team Scott, as it is throughout the rest of all military.

"Providing safe patient transport is vital," Treadwell said. "An improved PLS will aid in that effort."

This workshop was just one more stop on the road to completing this project.

"With the information we gathered, we will now select and build two final prototypes with increased functionality and size," said Rasmussen.

"Our goal is to have enough work done so the future system design process will go faster, and the customer will get a system that better fulfills their need."

The cadets will give their final presentation in May to the Air Mobility Command customers, in addition to leaders in the Air Force Medical Support Agency.

The students involved in this project are Cadets 1st Class Matt Heien, Tyler Ogren, Brad Phelan, Fred Rath, Jared Rillings, Jenna Whetsel, and Richards.

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