This past March, Andy Cohen was caught in one of the worst snowstorms of the year.

Members of Bioactivity at Virginia Tech work on the beginning stages of the Emergency Lift Assist device

The Crozet, Virginia, native, who graduated in May with a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech, was on his way back to Blacksburg from touring graduate schools when his flight from Charlotte to Roanoke was canceled.

He and several other strangers, all anxious to get home, decided to rent a car together — which Cohen says was mistake number one. Mistake number two was deciding to take an alternate route.

“At first, everything was fine, the route was relatively clear. Then the snow started accumulating and accumulating and accumulating, and eventually we were driving in tracks through five inches of snow, so we decided to turn around. That was mistake number three,” Cohen said, laughing.

Ultimately, in an attempt to reverse their course, the group ended up stranded near Carroll County. After exhausting all options to free the car from the snow and deeming the conditions too dangerous to travel in, Floyd County Rescue Squad housed the five individuals overnight at their station, in addition to providing them with showers and food.

Coincidently, Cohen was a part of a biomedical design organization called Bioactivity. One of the subteams he was mainly involved in was working on a device to help emergency medical service workers lift heavy patients.

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