By Bailey Payne ’19
When asked why he chose to join the Marine Corps after high school, Matthew Curtis ’19 chuckled. “I guess I wanted to do things all the way.”
That instinct to do things “all the way” has taken Curtis across an ocean and back on three deployments to the Middle East. It’s pushed him from a surf city on the California coast to a college town in the heart of Texas. And today, that instinct is driving Curtis to develop a product that could save lives on and off the battlefield.
Curtis grew up in Spokane, Washington, where he enlisted in the Marines out of high school. He spent his summer doing landscaping work until he received a call from his recruiter. Another enlistee had backed out, opening a spot for him the next day, which he accepted immediately.
Upon completing basic training, Curtis was stationed in Twentynine Palms, California. From there, he was deployed once to Afghanistan and conducted two training operations in the Kingdom of Jordan. “After those four years, I didn’t reenlist,” he said. “The war was over, and I decided to move on to other things.”
Having finished out his service commitment, Curtis temporarily returned to his birthplace of Santa Cruz, California, to care for his father. “He had surgery on his ankle right as I was discharged, and he was laid up for a month,” he said. “I helped him run his business for the summer, which developed my interest in entrepreneurship.”
In his free time, Curtis began researching top engineering colleges across the country, discarding every option in California (he wanted to “start somewhere new”), and quickly set his sights on Texas A&M. Before he knew it, he was packing up his Jeep and driving more than 1,800 miles from Santa Cruz to College Station. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” he said. Nothing on the West Coast or in the Middle East had prepared him for Aggieland’s unique culture.
As a non-traditional student and a veteran, Curtis couldn’t always relate to his younger classmates, but he felt nothing but admiration for Texas A&M’s premier resources and service-oriented spirit. With years of outside experience and the many resources available to engineering undergrads, it was only a matter of time before he put his newfound interest in entrepreneurship to use.
Curtis knew that quality tourniquets were highly valued among service members in the field in Afghanistan. With the threat of IED (improvised explosive device) attacks looming over everyday activities, having a trustworthy medical device that could prevent massive hemorrhage and bleeding out in the event of an attack was considered paramount. “Unfortunately, the tourniquets provided to service members were not always reliable and would sometimes break,” Curtis said.
Knowing there was a demand for a better device, he’s now trying to bridge the gap between user and designer. “My goal is to merge my tactical military experience with what I'm learning at Texas A&M to make a higher quality tourniquet,” he said.
His vision is to produce a more rugged device that can be applied faster and easier than the standard tourniquet. “The quality education I’m receiving at Texas A&M,” he said, “and the support of professors who’ve given me advice on this project is helping me immensely in becoming an engineer and understanding how the design process works.” Beyond the military and first responder communities, Curtis sees a place for tourniquets in civilian first aid and industrial applications, right next to AED’s and CPR training.
Utilizing feedback from his fellow engineering students, student veterans and professors, Curtis has refined his tourniquet design numerous times. With help from the Engineering Innovation Center, he has created early prototypes to show to interested parties. “The amount of resources, support and assistance available here is just fantastic,” he added.
While he admits there is much work to be done before his tourniquet can be distributed to first responders, military personnel and others, Curtis’ design shows great promise. As he enters his senior year with big goals in front of him, he carries forward the same “all the way” attitude that brought him to Texas A&M in the first place.
As the recipient of endowed scholarships from Bebe and Bruce Glasgow ’73, the Knauss Family, and Lou and C.C. Burton ’42, Matthew Curtis ’19 is leading by example through discovery and innovation.