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Dennis Hiebert ’61 has seen his inventions fly into space and transfer blood in safety, but the mechanical engineering graduate’s latest efforts have had simpler goals – though no less important.

After 42 years of consulting in design engineering, Hiebert has been consulting for Volunteers for Medical Engineering, a group of engineers and medical professionals who help people with disabilities gain further independence by designing new products and modifying existing devices.

In recent years, he was having difficulty taking care of his mother, who has physical disabilities. At a convention he met a vendor who had a device that looked like something he’d built for his mother. Hiebert later joined the group in Maryland.

One of his projects was to help a boy with malformed arms control his wheelchair. The boy had to stick his arms in a hole to move the new chair, and there was concern it might be too complex.

“The kid got into the chair and started doing it on his own. He learned instantly what to do,” Hiebert says. “We designed it right.”

That has been his history. His first job out of college led to his design of a bypass valve that flew in the second stage of the Saturn rockets during the Apollo space flight era.

“It has been used on many of the orbit tests,” he says.

Later, he designed robotic arms to test vials of potentially contaminated blood. “They were helping to save human lives by doing blood analysis,” he explains.

He credits the exhausting work he completed at Lafayette for developing his skills.

“Lafayette taught a lot of hands-on experience,” Hiebert says, reciting a litany of yearlong labs. “This did more to help me as an engineer than anything else.”

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles