Mary Metrey is the President of the QL+ Student Chapter at Virginia Tech. She is currently a Junior and scheduled to graduate in May of 2022. Mary is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Biomedical Engineering. Mary and her team recently completed the Ben’s Hand Project. Their Challenger, Ben, is a young boy in their local community that was born without his hand. The Challenge was to create a prosthetic hand that would allow Ben to perform simple grip-and-hold functions. The team also wanted to create a device that would be natural and easy to use.
The current Challenge is called the Gym Hand Project. This project is for an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Veteran, who lost three fingers (middle, ring, and pinkie) on his right hand. The Challenge is to create a device that allows the challenger to perform exercises at the gym comfortably.Our team recently completed the Ben’s Hand Project.
Question & Answer
Why did you choose your major?
Growing up, both of my grandfathers were mechanical engineers. Hearing about their work and experiences interested me at a young age, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I chose my major because I love learning about and utilizing mechanical design, and I like the hands-on aspect of it. I have always been curious as to how everything works, and my major has taught me a lot in that respect. My major has a variety of diverse applications which allows me to fully pursue all my interests.
Describe your experience working with QL+ so far.
I began working with QL+ my sophomore year of college. At that time, I was a general body member. Working with the team gave me friends in my classes, friends at Virginia Tech, and the ability to become involved with the community. The projects allowed me to pursue my interests and apply my knowledge outside of the classroom. This past year, I served as the Director of Public Relations. This position allowed me to work with the Challenger more closely and aid with supervision of projects and teams. This upcoming year, I will be serving as chapter President. This organization has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader, create lifelong friends/teammates, do what I love, and improve the quality of life of those in our community. The biggest challenge has been working on projects with the ongoing pandemic. With limited lab resources and not being able to work together in person, the projects are not being completed as quickly as in the past. However, the most rewarding part has been physically giving the completed projects to our Challengers. I love being able to see their reactions to what we have worked so hard on.
What was it like working with your Challenger? Did you learn anything from this experience?
I had the opportunity to work with the Challenger very closely on last project in my position as Director of Public Relations on the 2020-2021 board. I loved being able to work with our Challenger and his family to create a project that was custom to him and his needs. I also loved seeing the reactions to the team’s progress and the final device as it reminded me of the impact of our work. The family was extremely responsive which helped us progress the project as quickly as possible. They also communicated their concerns and additional needs, so we able to address those and further customize the project. Ben’s family was very patient with our team and understanding of our challenges with the pandemic. I learned from this experience that I can use my knowledge from the classroom to work and change another person’s life. Everybody has their own challenges, and I love being able to help others around me and make an impact. I am always so fortunate to be apart of the Challenger’s journey.
What would you say to other students about QL+?
I would say that QL+ is a fantastic place to grow as an individual. Our organization works on creating medical devices, prostheses, and assistive technologies to help community members and those who have served. We aim to foster an environment of diversity and inclusion as we are open to the entire Virginia Tech community to participate in. What sets us apart from most other organizations is that it is not a competition, and we are able to deliver/ cater our work towards those who need it.
What are your plans after graduation?
After completing my undergraduate studies, I hope to pursue further graduate studies. During graduate study, I hope to continue with research in the biomedical/biomechanics area. Then, I hope to work in the medical device or aerospace industry.
What has been the proudest moment of your college career?
The proudest moment of my college career was my acceptance into my major at Virginia Tech. As freshmen, all engineering students begin their studies as general engineers. We learn many foundational courses and explore each of the degree-granting programs during that time. At the end of our first year, we apply to the programs that interest us the most. I was extremely proud of myself for focusing on my studies to receive my first choice major.
List three ways you have changed as a person, student, and future engineer since working on this project.
This project allowed me to change as a person by allowing me to develop communication skills in working with the Challenger as well as an understanding of others. I began to understand others more throughout this project by working with such a diverse team made up of people of different backgrounds. Everyone has a different perspective, background, and idea that they bring to the table. Additionally, I learned what is important to others and how that may differ from myself by looking at the challengers needs. As a student, I learned to continue to think outside of the box and that inspiration can come from anywhere. It was often the “untraditional” ideas that worked on this project. As a future engineer, I learned ways to lead and motivate a team. Teamwork and leadership will be very important in my future as an engineer of industry.