Zak Amodt never let school get in the way of his education. He was a sophomore in computer science at Purdue when the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. "The United States has just been attacked. Please don't join the Army. Love, Mom." So read the sticky note left on the kitchen table for him that awful day. Ten years after he dropped out to serve his country, Zak is back and holding a provisional patent inspired by his experience as a combat medic in war zones all over the world.
- The mother of invention
Necessity inspired Zak's invention, the suspected orthopedic fracture splint (SOF splint). "I was the primary medic on a drop zone for airborne operations when I realized that the splints we had in our med kit were inadequate," he says. "That is when I started working on this idea.
"Creating a device that helps wounded individuals in a pre-hospital environment, that is fast, light, portable and still works even if you were to put bullet holes in it. Yes, you can shoot it and it will still function." His preliminary patent was applied for in November 2011 and his full patent application was submitted November 2012.
- Family influence
His father remains a major supportive influence and despite ignoring his mother's advice in 2001, Zak took inspiration from her to become a medic. "When I was in the process of enlisting, she said, 'Do you know what is worse than seeing one of your friends get blown up? Not being able to do anything about it.' Since that conversation, I have learned exactly what to do when someone else gets hurt, and there is nothing I enjoy more than being able to take care of people who are sick or wounded. Thanks, Mom!"
- The competitive edge
Zak doesn't consider himself an inventor as much a person with an idea. Lots of ideas. "I have always had ideas, but it took a long time for me to realize I had the ability to make them happen. It took several years in the military for me to gain the confidence necessary to initiate the process of manufacturing and selling a product. I feel that there are many students and young adults who have terrific ideas, but who don't realize they have what it takes to make them a reality."
- Purdue as a creative partner
"The one thing Purdue has in abundance is people with unique, valuable skill sets," Zak says. "No matter what issue I run into with this device, there is someone at Purdue willing to sit down with me and lend me his or her expertise.
"Professor Eric Nauman talked me through the patent writing process. Susan Owens and Nancy Strickler from the Department of Consumer Science constructed my pattern and manufactured my first prototype. Without these individuals who volunteered their free time to help me bring my prototypes to reality, this product would not be helping soldiers today."