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Someone You Should Know: Dakota State University professor receives patent for Power Block

Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 4:00 PM CST
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MADISON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Entrepreneurs often identify a problem and then find a solution. That’s exactly what happened with Dr. Justin Blessinger at Dakota State University in Madison.

“One of the issues I had was keeping my cell phone charged because I can’t just grab a cell phone off the shelf or plug it in and grab it off the counter. I need to have it with me at all times,” Dr. Chris Olson said, who is also a professor at DSU.

Blessinger then created what he’s calling the Power Block.

“It offers two different forms of power for the user of the chair, both USB, which we’re all familiar with for cell phones and other kinds of devices, and the slightly older but more powerful 12 Volt, the cigarette lighter style adapter,” he said.

Blessinger is the director of the AdapT Lab at DSU. He’s been teaching at the college since 2003.

“We’re not trying to make technology accessible. We’re trying to use technology to solve problems and remove barriers for people,” Blessinger said.

One of those people he often works with is Dr. Olson. He was in a crash in 2001. Olson was thrown from the vehicle and broke his neck.

“I just love how I’ve been able to use technology to overcome some of my limitations. I couldn’t do this job as well as I do without programming and technology,” he said. “I like to use those skills to make my life easier, then show students that the same things can benefit others.”

The Power Block is making his life easier, keeping his phone charged and his heated scarf on.

“Since I have plates in my neck, I have a lot of neck pain and the warmth really helps that,” Olson said.

Blessinger recently received a patent for the device. He is hoping to license it to get it out to more people. Blessinger said to the university’s knowledge, this is the first patent granted.

If there is someone you think we should all know, please email a nomination to news@dakotanewsnow.com.

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