A passion for changing lives is what inspires incoming UAB freshman Ashley Kimbel

High school senior shares her prosthetic foot design for Marine Corps veteran amputee alongside him — and announces her college choice — on “TODAY” show.

AshleyJoomlaAshley KimbelIt has been a whirlwind week for Ashley Kimbel.

The 17-year-old high school senior from Huntsville, Alabama, has been featured alongside Marine Corps veteran amputee Kendall Bane this week on the “TODAY” show and in other media outlets as the pair have been highlighting Kimbel’s engineering design and skills. The Grissom High School student designed a lighter-functioning prosthetic foot for Bane, which has enabled the military veteran to replace his previous heavier prosthetic and significantly improve his active lifestyle.

And at the end of Kimbel and Bane’s inspiring story and interview on “TODAY” — which you can view in its entirety here — anchor Craig Melvin asked the question that has everyone at the University of Alabama at Birmingham buzzing.

“Off to college next year? Where are you going?” Melvin asked.

“UAB,” Kimbel said. “I’m going to be in Birmingham. I’m very excited.”

Kimbel, who spoke to UAB News from New York City, said she was drawn to UAB because she believes it is the best school to study medicine.

“I want to be a surgeon one day and use my biomedical engineering and medical training to be on the forefront of medicine and doing more projects to help people like Kendall,” Kimbel said. “I wanted to go to UAB because of the major emphasis placed on undergraduate research and the opportunities I would have through that. I also chose UAB because of its Biomedical Engineering program.”

The UAB Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department in the School of Medicine and School of Engineering, ranked fifth in the nation in the amount of funding it received from the National Institutes of Health in 2018 — the third straight year it has accomplished the feat. Its $5,285,777 in funding was up more than $425,000 from the previous year and marked the first time BME has exceeded the $5 million mark.

Developing her skills

With Kimbel’s love for both the medical and engineering fields, she has been able to develop many skills in 3D design in Siemens CAD software (Solid Edge), 3D printing, carbon fiber layup and project management through an advanced manufacturing program offered at Grissom High School.  

“I didn’t always have a passion for engineering,” she said. “It started when I joined the Greenpower program at my middle school, and then it really emerged and grew when I got into the advanced manufacturing program at Grissom. It’s hard to not be passionate about it when I have full access to Solid Edge, plastic and metal 3D printers, and carbon fiber layups.”

Kimbel’s love for engineering grew even more when she was granted the opportunity to take two classes utilizing all of the new technology geared to create amazing work like the prosthetic foot that can help many people such as Bane. The experience, she said, has been truly special to her.

“It’s a really cool feeling to be able to use the skills that I’ve been developing over the last four years to make an impact on someone’s life,” Kimbel said.

Kimbel accepted her offer of admission into the UAB Honors College and will be pursuing a Personalized Path.