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Hacks of Life

photo of Martin Lab plaqueBy Laura Tenpenny. Photography by Yvette Gooden.

One New Lab is Enabling Students and Community Members

In the depths of Dougherty, a “life hacks” lab appeared just a few months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its proper name is the Dr. H. Lee Martin 3D Prosthetics Laboratory.

“The department and I provided initial funds to create a lab to support a student group involved in making prosthetic devices for simple common activities, and their results could then be posted online for others to use,” said Martin, the lab’s namesake. “Great idea!”

While open to all students, the lab’s primary purpose serves the Life Without Limits student group, which comes up with “life hacks” in the form of prosthetics for folks in need. These designs are made available online, but the group also makes and mails devices to those without access to 3D printers.

“The lab has been outfitted with state-of-the-art 3D printers, which students are constantly using to make prototypes for refining their designs,” said Associate Professor Chad Duty, faculty supervisor for the group. “It has enabled and inspired students to use their creativity and engineering skills to help others within our community and across the country. We’re immensely grateful for Dr. Martin’s generosity.”

Martin retired in December, but for 20 years, he taught in various disciplines at UT. During that time, he gave financially to establish and support many programs in the college (most recently this new lab space), initiated an entrepreneurship minor for the college, and has served on the MABE Advisory Board for over a decade.

Through his involvement with the board, he helped integrate mentorship in the MABE curriculum.

“Helping students understand the value and process of finding mentors and utilizing them will serve these students throughout their lives,” said Martin. “Seeing students grow and blossom, seeing them create ripples in the world, that’s really exciting and the most gratifying for me.”

A bonafide entrepreneur, Martin has developed technologies and businesses that have created ripples all their own. Of particular note, his venture with iPix brought 360-degree video technology to the world. You have likely benefitted from it by virtually touring properties online when considering a new home.

And he loves seeing young engineers also begin to affect positive change, like they are doing through this new lab.

“To encourage students to think beyond themselves and serve others, that’s just part of being a valuable part of the community, and it’s important to the full rounding out of a person’s life,” said Martin.

Even during the pandemic, Life Without Limits has used the lab to make face shields for frontline workers and held a virtual workshop for “Amp Camp”, a limb loss rehabilitation summer camp, where attendees were introduced to CAD and 3D printing.

“Engineers are problem solvers, and these are engineers with hearts to serve,” said Martin. “Who knows what else will come from these students, Dr. Duty, and the lab.”