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Students at Virginia Western Community College creating paralympic athletes’ equipment



Roanoke, Virginia – In late August, the Paralympic Games of Paris 2024 get underway. Students at Virginia Western Community College are creating customized athletic gear for a member of Team USA.

Dan Castillo is a veteran of Team USA Boccia who is quadriplegic (C-4). one of the paralympic sports with the quickest growth. The game of boccia was initially created for athletes with cerebral palsy, but today it is also played by athletes with different forms of limb impairment. However, Castillo’s athletic ability is being hampered by his present gear.

“Dan who was an athlete for most of his life had that competitive edge, is finally able to get back to it. He’s been able to enjoy that but we’re making it easier for him because a physical impairment shouldn’t make fulfillment any harder to achieve,” said VWCC Project Lead Community College Innovation Challenge, Corbin Lyle.

For this reason, the non-profit organization Quality of Life Plus, which assists wounded veterans, decided to engage with engineering students at Virginia Western Community College to create new, customized sports equipment for Castillo.

“It’s a great way to partner students with veterans who may not be familiar with what they have been through or who they are and give them a different perspective. It also gives students the chance to use their skills and know-how valuable their skills are for helping people with disabilities or injuries. As well as helping our veterans have a better quality of life,” said Quality of Life Plus Program Manager, Kristie Yelinek.

The kids’ task is to design a headgear or headstick that Dan can use to take any type of shot he needs to.

“Whittling down all of those ideas we made to a few designs we could prototype with the 3D printers we have and make an item to show Dan. Either in meetings or ones that we plan to send him in late March. With his feedback we will further refine our design to a product we can be proud to send him,” said Lyle.

“That was the whole reason I started the Appalachian Engineers because I wanted to instill in students that they too can make a difference. They can be a part of the solution and not the problem in this world. So, I was excited to see them get excited about trying to make a difference in this veteran’s life,” said VWCC Engineering Lab Manager, Rick Henegar.

The finished product should be ready for Dan by the middle of May.


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