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WTAMU Engineering Students Create Mechanical Hand

West Texas A&M students got hands on with mechanical prosthetics this fall.

West Texas A&M students got hands on with mechanical prosthetics this fall.

"It's a mechanical hand prosthesis, so there's no electrical component. It is powered by, in this case Aly's wrist motion, so she bends her wrist, strings in the fingers tighten, and close the fingers and then when she relaxes her wrist,  that tension lets up and then other elastic cords straighten the fingers back out," Rikki Boelens, one of the WT engineering students who worked on the project said. 

They worked with Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas to fix functionality issues of another type of mechanical hand.

Fifth grader, Aly Hunt, daughter of Dr. Emily Hunt, who led the project, gave them a little help along the way.

"The idea was already there to create a hand that's based purely on mechanical motion, and the students took that and then created this wonderful tool for a child," Dr. Hunt said. 

When asked if she liked helping with the project, Aly responds with a laugh, "Yes."

As for other improvements that need to be made - the color. She wants the mechanical hand in pink.

For the students who made it all happen, it was a venture into the unknown that gave them a whole new perspective.

"We were very proud of it. I mean, it's going to help her a lot. And we hope to keep working on it." Alex Parra, an engineering program graduate with the project said.

For Boelens, it's changed her plan for after graduation. 

"I'm actually applying for grad school for prostetics and orthotics. So, I'm hoping to make a career out of this," Boelens said. 

A project that inspired innovation, a new career path, and a helping hand for kids like Aly.

On top of all that, the mechanical hand is cost effective - it can be made for about $15, and the response from Scottish Rite was positive. They can now use the design for their patients.

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