Gearing up for two product launches, COO Adrian Rodriguez has been on the go. As Enlighten Mobility’s lead engineer, Rodriguez drives product design, development and manufacturing – fueled by the goal to deliver patient empowerment. Besides overseeing company operations, Rodriguez has focused on making the final adjustments to the company’s first product, the Enlight Gait Trainer.
You’ve come a long way with the Enlight Gait Trainer – how is it going?
After months and months of work, it’s exciting to have a final prototype that we’re testing with amputees as we head into the manufacturing phase. We’ve been through a lot of iterations with the Enlight Gait Trainer to make sure that as an independent walking device it will meet patients’ needs – and ultimately improve their mobility. Along the way, we’ve tried not to get too attached to any feature or idea in product development. Just because we like something doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for patients. We view feedback as a gift because it usually results in changes that significantly improve the use of the device. For example, a big turning point with the Enlight Gait Trainer was when we added the sit-to-stand component based on feedback that patients needed help standing up before they could begin walking independently with the device. Now that we have a functioning prototype, we’re seeing first-hand how the Enlight Gait Trainer can improve quality of life for amputees, and eventually for stroke and spine patients.
You’ve been part of Enlighten Mobility since the beginning. How did you get started?
Marissa and I met in grad school at the Notre Dame ESTEEM program. During our first week, we had to present a brief of our thesis project. Marissa’s thesis would end up being Enlighten Mobility – and I was immediately drawn to her story. I happened to have the skills she needed so I helped Marissa with the engineering work on the Enlight Gait Trainer. From day one, we’ve worked well together because we complement each other in everything that we do.
Describe the product development process that you lead for Enlighten Mobility.
Our product development starts and ends with patients. We begin by asking a lot of questions to learn what patients need and what they want. Along with guidance from doctors and medical experts, we come up with a solution that gives patients their vision back to them. The process is a give and take. Marissa advocates for the patients. I lay out what we need to tap into in order for those wants and needs to be realized. There’s a constant iteration of taking it to the patients that need it and getting feedback from experts on how they’ll use it, while making sure we can deliver on sound engineering, safety, cost and usability.
What’s most gratifying about your work as an engineer?
I like the challenge of creating things, honing things in, making tweaks and changes. But it all comes down to who we’re doing it for and seeing the positive effects of what we’re making by responding to the range and variance of the human body. There’s nothing more fulfilling than helping someone’s mood improve, knowing that our work can enhance quality of life.
How do you keep moving?
I move with patience. I played sports in high school – then in college, I was on the rowing team at Loyola Marymount. Crew is the only sport synonymous with `team’ and for my freshman year, I loved the team aspect of it. But I realized I could either crew for four years or try 18 other things. So I opted for variety. After organized sports, I found endurance sports and fell right into it with biking and swimming. The longer the race was, the better I did. I’ve participated in biking events for charity – 100 miles per day for four or five days. My brother and I enjoy a half-marathon swim for charity – 13 miles of swimming in 10 hours requires determination and patience, it’s almost a mental game at that point. I like to have something to shoot for. At heart, I’m competitive – and more competitive the longer the distance.
“I’m excited about making a name for the Enlighten Mobility team as a gritty group that’s dedicated to patients and pride themselves on being patient-driven, research driven and results driven.” –Adrian Rodriguez, COO