Helping Stroke Survivors: Emily Heron

Since Emily applied to Virginia Tech’s industrial design program, her interest has lain in medical design. Last semester, she began designing physical therapy objects for stroke survivors suffering from hand impairments. The Interactive Neurorehabilitation project ( works to help research better solutions for this issue, combining transdisciplinary team members, including computer scientists, bioengineers, therapists, UX designers, and industrial designers. Emily provides research and designs for the censored objects that target certain hand positions and track patient use. The goal is to design objects that patients will feel comfortable leaving out around the home while aiming to provide physical therapy opportunities to wide range of hand movement deficiencies. To do this, Emily creates sketches, completes digital models, and helps document research progress. She looks forward to getting to work more in wood and metal shops as well as with new materials and processes that aren’t possible in the studio setting. Through working for INR, Emily’s learning skills to clearly communicate with a team that doesn’t share the same design vocabulary and justifying her design ideas to others in a professional environment. Overall, she finds the project fills many gaps that unfortunately can’t be fulfilled solely through industrial design courses. For other students looking to further develop their education, Emily recommends joining outside projects and getting involved in areas where your interests lay. Not only will this help build a resume but will further your studio skills and practice applying them. Through INR, working remotely with Genworth, and adapting her studio projects to her interests, Emily tailors her college education to fulfill her own desire to directly help people with disabilities through medical and assistive design.