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Spencer and IPO Worker

Workplace Preparation

Maximilian Spencer isn’t waiting until graduation day to build his resume.

The biomedical engineering major is part of Widener’s co-operative education program (co-op), which allows students to work up to a year in the field with pay and still graduate on time.

“The patient interaction is really inspiring,” said 21-year-old Spencer, who took on an 8-month co-op at Independence Prosthetics-Orthotics (IPO). “We’ve had a few wounded warriors here and some people with fascinating stories and such a strong spirit.”

For over 35 years, the co-op education experience at Widener has helped students connect classroom learning with real-world experiences and gain the confidence and skills they need for professional success.

During Spencer’s time at the Greater Philadelphia/Delaware prosthetic maker he has learned just about every side of the business including the intricacies of Medicare and Medicaid, the dynamics of the office environment and the wok of clinicians.

“I’m so fortunate to be able to work with clinicians and technicians who have 10 or 20 even 30 years of experience in the field,” noted Spencer, a South Jersey native.

John Horne, president and founder of IPO, said his office supports co-op learning because it helps create a seamless connection between academia and industry. Horne added students often learn the value of teamwork in the workplace setting as well.

“Widener has created a platform where the interest in biomedical (engineering) has transcended the classroom…” said Horne.

“The intimacy of our staff and patient experiences offer unique insight into the power of human triumph despite traumatic or life-changing circumstances.” 

One project in particular has had a great impact on Spencer. He is currently helping to make myoelectric arm devices for a bilateral amputee. The prosthetic is activated by the patient’s muscle signals, allowing the hand to rotate at the wrist and close and open to create a grabbing motion.

Spencer admits the custom fabrication of prosthetics and orthotics was a new learning experience, but he was able to fall back on the engineering skills he learned at Widener to help with the design elements and his biology courses when talking about anatomy and physiology.

“You’re ready in that you know how circuits work,” explained Spencer. “But to actually go through the fabrication process and to make sure you design that socket correctly and those electrodes are in the right spot…that was a unique experience.”