Jan. 14, 2014
COPY BY: Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, firstname.lastname@example.org
WTAMU Engineering Students Design Hand in Project with Dallas-Area Hospital
CANYON, Texas—What do you get when you put a group of West Texas A&M University mechanical engineering students together with some bungee cord, fishing line, a few nuts and bolts and a 3D printer? A senior design project that uses current engineering issues and technology to improve the design of a mechanical-hand prosthesis for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC).
Each semester students in Dr. Emily Hunt’s mechanical engineering design class are divided into groups to work on a special project that often has a human element attached to it. This fall, one group took on a collaborative project focused on the design and functionality of a prosthetic hand for the Dallas-area hospital.
“This prosthetic hand is used as a tool and not as a replacement for children born with a hand difference,” Hunt, director of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, said. “We are making a move toward human-centered design projects so our students can see the impact of how engineering can help people’s lives. This design definitely does that.”
TSRHC set several guidelines for the students to follow and requested that the completed design be one that could be printed on a 3D printer, easily assembled and affordable. The four mechanical engineering majors—Rikki Boelens, a senior from Gunter, Marina Garcia, a senior from Amarillo, Alex Parra, a senior from Hereford, and Jared Pedigo, a senior from Amarillo—spent the semester researching prosthetic technology, learning bone structure and muscle systems as well as range of motion and joints before taking on the task of the robotic hand design.
The team worked with Dr. Dwight Putnam at TSRHC and reviewed various files and designs from the hospital to help with the project’s ongoing research and design. The WTAMU students used their gathered information to make sure the new design would offer comfort and independence with a focus on finger size ratio, grasp orientation and thumb placement. The students experienced trial and error moments but learned more each time the robotic design was printed and made the adjustments and modifications needed meet project requirements.
The finished design is purely mechanical and contains no electrical components. Bungee cord and fishing line are used to help the design’s fingers straighten and the wrist bend, and a new attachment system was created as well. Plus, the use of a 3D printer makes the design very affordable. This offers TSRHC an added advantage with the ability to mass print the design for hundreds of children at a cost of approximately $15 each. The design also can be easily adjusted as the child grows.
“What I enjoy the most about engineering and working on this design is that the design process is not a one-time shot,” Garcia said. “There are going to be adjustments that need to be made and understanding what’s wrong can only be of benefit to make it right and also knowing that all the hard work done will help children. That makes it all worth it.”
Hunt said TSRHC is excited about the design and has many additional ideas for future projects with mechanical engineering students at WTAMU.