Young, energetic students at West Texas A&M are making great steps forward in both their chosen field of engineering and in helping their fellow Texans. A group of four students spent a full semester working on a prosthetic hand designed for patients with Symbrachydactyly (a common hand and foot disorder).
TSRHC collaborated with West Texas A&M engineering professor, Dr. Emily Hunt, with the idea of designing a new prosthetic hand. Guided by Dr. Dwight Putnam of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, the students took up the project eagerly and were aided through this special project by Dr. Hunt and her 10-year-old daughter Aly who has Symbrachydactyly.
The base design came from a prosthetist from South Africa who posted the design online for any who wished to download for free. From there, the students worked the design carefully, using common tools including bungee cords, fishing line, and a 3-D printer. Aly tested drafts of the design and gave the students feedback, helping them understand the needs and preferences of the patients who will actually use the prosthetic.
The design functions through simple muscle movement. When Aly bends her wrist, the fingers close, when she straightens it, the fingers open. Aly said it is easy to use and finds it very helpful. What is even more impressive is that the hand can be produced for a mere $15!
The Human Element
The West Texas A&M students who worked on the project said it was a truly unique and inspiring project. Engineering students rarely get to work on something that has such a significant impact on actual people with specific needs.
Working with the hospital, Dr. Hunt, and Aly, added a human element that increased the value and importance of their work. Receiving instant patient feedback and suggestions helped them identify problems, improve the design, and ultimately become more successful engineers. It was an experience they aren’t likely to forget and their work is sure to bless the lives of thousands of patients to come.
Photo Credit: Sean Steffen – Amarillo Globe News