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Engineering Students Help Wounded Veterans Thanks To Partnership

By Jamie Leary

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) - A new partnership with the Colorado School of Mines is giving students important, real-world experience while helping wounded veterans.

Quality of Life Plus (QL +), a non-profit, donated $50,000 to a brand new lab on campus where students work on adaptive equipment to improve the quality of life for wounded veterans.

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Velette Britt (credit: CBS)

"It's just kind of awesome like I hope that what they can do to help me also helps other people with their mobility and makes the world more accessible to more people in wheelchairs," said Velette Britt, an Air Force Veteran with the 21st Dental Squadron.

Britt served in the Air Force for nine years before a tragic accident changed her life.

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(credit: CBS)

It was her first time mountain biking when she lost control. She was severely injured; doctors told her she would never walk again, but she never gave up her desire to bike.

Now, students are helping Britt and other wounded vets get back to the top of their game.

"The fact that we can use our engineering degrees to help people who have helped us, I think that's a super big deal," said Megan Koehler, a senior in Mechanical Engineering.

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(credit: CBS)

Koehler showed us around the high-tech lab, pointing out some of the projects she and her classmates are working on. Things like, skateboards, skis and a adaptive equipment for climbers with a wide range of injuries.

On Tuesday, during the lab's first open house, the students were able to meet two of the wounded veterans they are helping.

"I wouldn't be in the spot that I am without people like them so it's really important to be able to give back," said Koehler.

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(credit: Velette Britt)

Britt hopes to cycle in the 2020 Para Olympics so the students are developing a hand cycle which will give her better movement and less pain.

"With less pain in my hands I'll be able to spend more time on the hand cycle and concentrate on my training regimen," said Britt.

Another group of students are creating a wheel chair for Britt that can get over curbs and other large obstacles.

"Our method is to allow her to traverse the curbs on her own without any help from another person," said Brandon Weihl, a senior in Mechanical Engineering.

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CBS4's Jamie Leary interviews Velette Britt. (credit: CBS)

"So I don't have to worry about finding the nearest curb cut to get inside of a building," said Britt.

The partnership gives wounded veterans more independence and the students an experience they wouldn't normally get inside of a classroom.

"It's wonderful. It allows us to do a real world projects," said Weihl.

With the guidance of Dr. Joel Bach, the director of Mines' Human center design studio, some of their ideas may be patented for widespread use.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn't imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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