Grad student invents product to help amputees in everyday life

by Scarlet Keolanui, Staff Writer

The worst part of U.S. veteran and lower-right leg amputee Frank Jones’ everyday life was showering.

His life has now been changed by the invention of the Shower-Safe Base. It was created by Michael Simonetti, a student in San Diego State’s administration, rehabilitation and postsecondary education graduate program, in collaboration with Jones and his prosthetist, Russell DePalma.

“I’ve waited 45 years to be able to stand in the shower,” Jones said.

Simonetti’s project came about through his class with Andrew Y. J. Szeto, an electrical and computer engineering professor, in conjunction with Caren Sax, administration, rehabilitation and post-secondary education department chair.

“A good academic environment, good professors and good collegues plus scientific research equals a solution that can be translated into thousands of people,” Simonetti said about why he believes his assistive technology creation worked.

A 23-year veteran himself, Simonetti sought to find a way to help other veterans with the most low-cost and low-tech solution possible. He recalled visiting different Goodwill stores to acquire the materials needed for the lowest price possible. The Shower-Safe base has proven to be so effective that it has moved past the research stage, become patented and is now in the works to ultimately become a limited liability company.

The current assistive technology in the market for those who need assistance getting in and out of the shower are shower chairs, although they have not been proven to benefit amputees. The Shower-Safe Base is an alternative and unique creation because the base attaches to the existing prosthetic leg and allows the user to stand safely in shower as well as transition in and out of the shower in a way that shower chairs cannot.

Simonetti and the prosthetist he is working with hope they can market this revolutionary product to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense so it can reach more than just the current 300 people interested in the Shower-Safe Base.