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“New Hampshire is a place to really embrace the outdoors and build a quiver of activities that you enjoy.”
Quinn Connell is a team player. An athlete and an engineer, Quinn is part of the core group that conceived of and built the Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) – “the world’s first and only motorized, self-righting, mobile training dummy.”
Quinn first came to New Hampshire from Oregon to attend Dartmouth College, where he captained the rugby team to an undefeated season and an Ivy League Championship, and later graduated from the Thayer School of Engineering.
The original robotic training device was conceived by Quinn and several other students as part of a final design project at Thayer, with the goal of increasing player safety and performance in high-impact sports like football.
Dartmouth’s Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens, known for pioneering a policy against tackling during practice, posed the challenge to Thayer’s engineering students to develop a solution that would allow players to learn proper contact technique, without the risk of injuring each other during practice.
The project was a success, but, like most school projects, it gradually fizzled out after graduation when the group of students moved on to other priorities.
After graduating, Quinn moved to Colorado, where he worked as an engineer before going on to serve as a whitewater kayaking coach and educator at World Class Kayak Academy, a traveling high school for students that want to earn their education while exploring the world.
Throughout his world travels, Quinn kept going back to the robotic tackle dummy in his mind. “I thought it was something worth exploring,” he said.
As luck would have it, Quinn’s summer break from the Kayak Academy lined up with that of Elliot Kastner, former defensive lineman at Dartmouth and part of the final design class that developed the original MVP.
The two moved back to New Hampshire for the summer to develop the first prototype of the MVP and worked with the Dartmouth football team in the fall to workshop and continue to improve the product. “We came back here and spent a summer working on it and, by the end of the summer, we had a viable prototype and videos that went viral,” he said.
Today, Quinn serves as a Board Member and Vice President of Engineering for the company, where he continues to focus on prototype and product development and business strategy. Head Coach Buddy Teevens serves as Chairman of the Board.
The company recently partnered with Michigan-based Rogers Athletic Company to license the technology for production and sales to the football market. The next step, Quinn says, is to tailor the product to the youth market.
“Our priority is to make it available to anyone that it can help, particularly at the youth level. Training at a young age is necessary to form habits, but their bodies are still being developed, so it’s critical that they avoid injury.”
Quinn was initially drawn to Dartmouth for its strong outdoors program and to New Hampshire for its recreational offerings.
“Honestly my favorite thing is the proximity to the outdoors,” he said. “You can go white water kayaking, skiing, hiking…It’s great to walk out of your door and have access to three to four outdoor activities right there. That’s what drew me here in the first place.”
Quinn didn’t always plan on ending up in the New Hampshire. “I’ve packed up and moved out of Hanover four or five times, and each time I thought it would be the last,” he said. “But I keep getting pulled back.”
Quinn lives in Hanover with two PhD candidates he met at the Thayer School of Engineering. He credits his happiness in New Hampshire, in part, with the community he has found here.
“A big part of my happiness is finding good friends and roommates to live with,” he said. “So I think finding a good community here is really important.”
Quinn operated the MVP on an episode of
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
, where Colbert tries his hand at tackling the robotic dummy.
Quinn is an avid outdoorsman and has been known to mountain bike to work.
MVP’s core team and board members all attended Dartmouth College.