Behind the Scenes: An Inside Look at the Cal Poly QL+ Lab

At the beginning of this class we originally wanted to do a story about students in wheel chairs at Cal Poly.  We had sources willing to do interviews and it seemed like the perfect topic.

However, we ran into complications with this topic and decided to choose a different route.  We still wanted to discuss disability on campus, but we now were trying to focus on students making a positive impact for those who have a physical disability rather than focusing on their struggle.

The Idea:

The Quality of Life Plus National Program is a program designed to help wounded veterans get prosthetics in oder to improve their quality of life.   The program expanded to form a satellite club at Cal Poly, the QL+ lab, where students help those who are searching for a solution to a physical challenge.

We went to their website and read a small article about a man named Chris Bratcher, a winemaker who lost his arm during a winemaking accident.  The QL+ lab was helping Chris by building him an arm so he could continue his passion of winemaking with ease.

We were immediately drawn to this topic as we all connected with it in our own personal ways.

The Process:

Our team of journalists met with QL+ President Berkeley Davis who told us about the team of students who had been working on Dr. Bratcher’s arm for nearly nine months.   She invited us to their club meeting the next night.

QL+ Lab meeting.
QL+ Lab meeting.

At the meeting, we watched tentatively as a large number of engineers gathered to hear what new projects they will be working on this quarter.

After their announcements, the engineers broke off into groups to do product design and brainstorm.

Lauren Goff, the public relations associate on this story, said how “it is important for our team to capture the essence of the team in order to show our audience what cool stuff these people do.  It’s hard to tell without being there to witness it.”

Jordan Hanna, the videographer, set up her camera as the sun started to set behind Engineering West.  Berkeley Davis agreed to do a preliminary interview before we met with the project team.  The setting sun allowed for optimal light to illuminate Berkeley’s profile.

As the camera beeped, notifying us that it was almost out of battery, we made sure to make every last moment of light count before the sun set.

The following day we met with Chris Bratcher’s project team in the QL+ lab (which is usually off limits to those who aren’t officially in the club).

QL+ Lab
QL+ Lab

Aaliyah Ramos, third year mechanical engineering major, and the rest of her team agreed to meet with us.   “Our goal is to make Chris’s life easier by giving him a hand that actually fits him and that he can actually use.   He will even have a sort-of opposable thumb,” Ramos said.

The group assembling Chris's arm
The group assembling Chris’s arm

It was here that Hanna and Isle Longoria,  the interactive journalist for this story, did the majority of their filming and photography.

As Hanna looked back on our meeting she said, “my goal was to capture how brilliant and inspiring they are with my video and they made it so easy for me.”

They showed us the hand that they had been spending the past 9 months to create.  We all stood in awe as we gazed over this beautiful piece of machinery that students our age had created.

The Result:

We each wanted to put our hearts into this project because the people we met at the QL+ lab are doing such inspiring things that we hoped to emulate their success.

“The most challenging part of this project was grabbing and producing good content in two week,” Longoria said.

Although this project had its ups and downs, we found that it was super rewarding to work with such great people.

Andi DiMatteo, fourth year journalism major and the writer for this story, noted how: “the biggest challenge was the pressure I felt to get everything just right.  The work the QL+ lab does is so amazing and important so I wanted the story to reflect that without editorializing anything.”

After completion of this project we all have a newfound respect and love for the QL+ Lab and all that they do.