SCI Superstar: Mark E. Felling

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The “mad scientist” of adapted technology, Mark Felling, Engineer, Patented Inventor and Founder of adapted gear profferer Broadened Horizons, is a quadriplegic on a mission. Ever since crashing his experimental plane a decade ago, he’s been determined to use his engineering skills to make his life, and other’s like his, easier.

Several life-changing technologies for people with disabilities have been invented by Mark, and he continues to create more each year, all to empower people with disabilities. From a powered tenodesis hand splint he calls the “Power Grip” to some of the best adapted video game equipment ever made, this is the story of Mark Felling, the man who never stops dreaming.

Why he’s fearless

It takes a fearless man to be a great scientist, and Mark was fearless long before his injury. Growing up on a dairy farm in Albany, Minnesota, Mark was always interested in how things worked. After high school, he wanted to study electrical engineering and did so at North Dakota State University, loving every moment of it.

He also studied international business at NDU. International travel and languages were and still are another thing Mark lives for. For this degree, he studied in Mexico, which is where he became fluent in Spanish. And after receiving his BAs, he attended Regis University to get his MBA. During his studies, this travelaholic went to Russia to study, focusing on the Russian language and culture.

But a year after returning home from Moscow, while flying a experimental plane along the Minnesota River Valley, Mark’s life was forever altered when his plane crashed after an engine failure upon takeoff. Instead of crashing into the water which is a big no-no in emergency landings (you could pass out and drown), Mark instead crashed into the trees alongside the river, flipping his plane and breaking his C4-5 vertebrae on impact.

Right away living life as a quad, Mark started thinking about tools that would make his life easier. While he was in occupational therapy, he had the idea to add a motor to a tenodesis splint so someone of his level of injury could use it, and not only did his idea work, he’s now selling it – the Power Grip.

His site, Broadened Horizons, has become one of the most impressive adapted tool sellers online, and it attracts many newly injured people. Mark also invented universal adapted video game controllers, one made for those with limited arm/finger movement and another made for those with no arm movement at all –  the Ultimate Arcade. Any game can be played with these too.

To use his phone independently, Mark has also created a cell tool – Vocalized – that allows individuals with no arm movement to use any phone they desire with their voice, as well as other awesome things like adaptive aviation tools to assist quads who want to fly and a great sling – the Comfort Carrier – for transferring into airplanes or for any other awkward transfers.

What’s next?

While he’s continually working on new devices and is a busy cure advocate in Minnesota, speaking at the Capitol earlier this year, Mark has also traveled a lot in the last 5 years, from Columbia to India, to both be a tourist and to promote disability awareness and adapted technology, which is huge deal in countries like these (he also has no problem getting stared at, which happens a lot in lesser developed countries).

It can be difficult becoming injured later than life, especially after establishing a career, but Mark proves that any of us can become good at adapting if we just find ourselves an open mind. The key, no the secret, is staying busy and having a purpose, and Mark has definitely created that for himself in a hugely important way. What he’s done for the disability community is indispensable.

– Visit his site: Broadened Horizons

Have you used any items from Broadened Horizons?

Watch the videos!

Mark Felling Interview with WCCO/CBS

Mark Felling Interview for Assistive Technology Oral History Project

Mark becomes attraction at Jama Mazid Mosque Delhi, India

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