Meet Travis and Kurt – VICIS RDI (Research Development and Innovation) ENGINEERS
Travis Glover and Kurt (Fish) Fischer are members of the VICIS RDI team. They are passionate about their work at VICIS and are determined to build a safer helmet that players will love to wear.
HC: Tell me a little about yourselves…
Fish: “We’re twins! Travis works on the purely functional part of it [helmet]. I help translate his engineering specs into a design players will enjoy.”
Travis: “I’m a Mechanical Engineer. I came from Philips Medical, and worked there for about 8 years.”
Fish: “Yeah, we both worked at Philips together. Like I said, we’re brothers, we’re twins, and now we’re here at VICIS together.”
Fish: “My job is to make Travis worry.”
Travis: “I worry about everything, that’s my job.”
HC: So how do you guys work together?
Travis: “Kurt gives me something beautiful, and then I try and break it. I change things about the helmet to make them more “manufacturable” in the end.
Basically, I help with the system part of it, I bring everything together and make sure it all works as a cohesive unit. If something goes wrong, I want to get to that immediately and have some sort of way to address it.
I know what looks good, but I don’t put it all together (manufacturability, function, and appearance) into the final design – that’s for Fish.”
HC: Why move to VICIS from the medical device industry?
Kurt & Travis: “Because it’s more fun!”
Travis: “It’s based in fact. It’s what makes this place so attractive to engineer guys like us. Here, we’re based in data, not just reference or opinion.”
Kurt: “I didn’t come here to just make another football helmet, other people can do that. To use your skills and abilities to make a difference, that’s what resonates with us medical people. Making a difference in people’s lives, that’s meaningful. But then doing it in a way that has to do with sports, that’s living the dream.“
HC: Ok, how about you Kurt? What’s your background?
Kurt: “Well so Travis came here to VICIS before me. I have more of a traditional background— industrial design and product development – but those are very broad terms for the work that I do. Simply, I focus in the usability aspects of the design.
It’s easy to make something look great, it’s straightforward to make something function, but it’s very hard to make them both work together.”
Travis: “We’re making a product that forces you to know who your customer is and ‘what kind of experience do I want them to have?'”
HC: How do you go about balancing the science and the design or user-interface that players will embrace?
Travis: “Well, so that’s the neat thing about VICIS. We have so many things at our disposal to craft the helmet that will keep players safe while they enjoy wearing it— from the material choice to the structural benefit, the aesthetic aspect, and so on.
There’s a balance as you said – we’re very interested in the concrete stuff, like how will it perform, but also how is it experienced? How will it feel on the players’ heads?”
HC: What is it like being a football fan while simultaneously creating this helmet? Has your perspective of the game changed at all? Has it changed the way you watch on Sundays?
Travis: “After working here, absolutely! All I focus on is what helmet the athletes are wearing. I’ve sort of lost sight of the game, it used to be more enjoyable, but because we stare at equipment 24/7, all I am looking for is where the athlete’s eyes are in relation to the helmet, or looking at the ears, or the facemasks.
We still love the game though! That’s what brings us to the office every day—the hope and thought of seeing someone on the field wearing the helmet that we designed. A lot of people have put forth tons of effort for this helmet and there’s a lot of excitement behind it! So therefore, it makes me even more excited for football.”
Kurt: “There are so many ingredients, and they all have to be right, and this is interesting because at the core we are making a safer helmet, but we can keep more people involved and wanting the helmet if they like the way it looks and feels, because in that case, it broadens both our strength and capabilities.”
HC: So where does the design for the helmet come from?
Kurt: “Artefact, a Seattle-based design firm, created the initial design. Their approach for the design is this idea of ‘modern-classic’. As you know, there’s a lot of heritage in football, plenty of tradition and history. Artefact wanted to respect that, by incorporating a vintage aspect. At the same time, they wanted it to be contemporary. Together, we are working to modernize a classic in some sense. We want to take the feelings from the past and add a new high-tech look and feel of the modern world. Artefact did an outstanding job, providing a great foundation for us, and we have continued to evolve and refine the design.”
HC: In your mind then, how well has VICIS done as far as the user interface of the helmet goes?
Kurt: “We’re new, we’re the new kids on the block. We have something to prove, we don’t have history or heritage, so we don’t take anything for granted. We don’t act like we know. We go out there and ask the experts, we’re inquisitive. We ask a lot of questions of players, equipment managers, and athletic trainers. We’re going to deliver a much better helmet as a result of the great answers we’re getting.”
HC: Anything else?
Kurt: “Travis played football!”
Kurt: “He may have hung the jersey up a good a year or two ago, but he still played! In fact, Travis was part of our first usability test with the helmet on.”
HC: What do you mean?
Kurt: “We actually went out with the helmets and played catch.”
Travis: “It’s a unique position having played the game and having be a part of the engineer side, it puts you in a very unique spot.”