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March 20, 2019

A step up

March 20, 2019

As I scaled the shelves in the grocery store to reach something on the top one, I was reminded, once again, how annoying it can be to be short. I need a stool to reach things in my kitchen and in my closet. I wear heels all the time to put myself close to eye level with people at work. 

When I was a kid, I think I had blocks taped to the pedals of my tricycle and I was always the last one picked for basketball. I learned to drive in a huge Chevy Suburban where I needed pillows behind and under me. Clothes have always needed hemming, and I was 10 years old before I was allowed to ride the good rides at Cedar Point.

As an adult, I like to say I’m 5 foot 2 inches tall, but that’s stretching it. The reality is I’ve never hit that height, and I’ll only shrink as I get older. I was in the elevator with a colleague recently, and she noted there was something different about me. She finally exclaimed, “Oh! You’re not in heels! I never realized how short you are!” Yep…story of my life. 

But, I’ve learned to adapt to my short stature. I think society has adapted to different sizes, shapes and abilities too. Now, instead of pillows, I can simply get into my car and pick No. 2 and magically the seat moves to where I need it. Clothing comes in a lot more options and even my desk moves to match my height.

Engineers have played a huge part in making the world adaptable for those of us in it. Being short is a minor annoyance but, for many people, engineered technology is crucial to their mobility and independence.

MSU mechanical engineer Tamara Reid Bush is an expert in creating tools and devices that make life better for people with disabilities or who are recovering from surgery. She’s a true partner and mentor for her students and gets them hands-on experience in the machine shop. Check out the short video in the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Engineering a better future, to learn more about this extraordinary Spartan.

And, because Spartans love to help Spartans, she and her team took on a special case recently — getting MSU basketball player Nick Ward back on the court. She and a group of professors and students engineered a brace to protect a fracture in his hand and got him back in the game just in time for March Madness. Watch the video and read the story to learn more about this awesome collaboration between MSU research and athletics.

As we head into the NCAA tournament, most people know the names of the Spartans who are on the team. They’re a talented group of student athletes who play with a lot of heart and grit and have the ability to do very well.

But, there are thousands and thousands of other students who aren’t in the spotlight but have that same heart and grit. Max Sandler is a sophomore studying psychology who decided that even with a heavy course load, he could still do more. He joined a student group that collects unused medical supplies destined for a landfill and gets them to places around the world desperately in need of them. Read the STUDENT VIEW: Making a difference, to learn more about this inspirational young man. 

Having determination and trying new things is part of being a Spartan. Dalton Hardisty, an Endowed Assistant Professor of Global Change Processes, has literally taken his research to new depths. He recently traveled to the bottom of the ocean, 1.5 miles below the surface, to a place where magma-heated water escapes to the seafloor in the Pacific Ocean. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: A view from the ocean floor, to learn more about his incredible experience and even watch video from the journey.

I’m sure that whatever engineers created that submersible Human Occupied Vehicle that he was in did an incredible job keeping him safe, but even with the adaptations they created, there’s no way I could ever do that trip. Under deep, deep water in a seven-foot diameter sphere? Nope. No way. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. This Spartan is glad that there are other Spartans much braver than she.

It takes all kinds of Spartans with different backgrounds, skills, abilities and experiences to solve problems, change lives and make an impact. But, one thing I’ve noticed is that Spartans always believe that we’re stronger together and look for ways to reach out and give others a step up. Tamara is a mentor to young women in her courses, Max is helping people across the ocean and Dalton notes it took a team of scientists working together to embark on his expedition. 

Spartans really do believe that we’re all part of something bigger that’s made better when we work together. Spartans don’t climb to the top and pull up the ladder. We reach back and bring others up with us. Sometimes, it takes us working together to reach new heights. If you see someone falling a little short, make sure to reach out and offer a step up. #SpartansWill

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Kurt Stepnitz


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