On Saturday, November 16, over 60 middle school and college students wielded plungers, bubble wrap and duct tape in a design challenge to construct a functional prosthetic leg. The activity was part of the OEOP Middle School Mentoring Program, which matches undergraduate and graduate mentors with middle school students from Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence, Massachusetts.
The design challenge began with an introduction to common biomedical engineering terms and an overview of the engineering design process. Mentors and mentees then broke off into small groups and began sketching and building prosthesis prototypes from a limited supply of household items. In the end, the teams were judged on their prostheses’ comfort, durability and usability.
The design challenge was partially funded by the NSF Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, a partnership between MIT, the University of Washington, and San Diego State University that works to develop robust and adaptive closed-loop interaction between human nervous systems and sensorimotor devices.
Mentor and MITES ’11 alum Andrew Berta sketched ideas for his team’s prosthesis as mentees Rachel Lee, Annie Miao and Miles Graham offer suggestions.
A plunger wedged inside of a piece of PVC pipe supports the weight of mentoring student George King III. Teammate Isaah Adedeji (seated) and mentor Chris Kelley – a MITES ’09 alum – observe the test of an early model prosthetic leg.
Seeking to increase her team’s “comfort” score, mentee Leah Delacruz holds a sponge atop a metal pole for teammates Daniela Reyes and Lirianna Valerio.
Mentor Kristen Ford facilitates a planning discussion with members of her team (clockwise from right): mentee Rojry Basnet, mentor and MITES ’12 alum Elizabeth Rider, mentor Kristia Wantchekon, and mentees Doralee Heurtelou and Victoria Andrews.
Under the supervision of mentee Roandy Herrera (center) and mentor Douglas Sanchez mentee (right), Joel Aguila stretches out a piece of duct tape for teammate Kevin Vazquez to cut. The team’s design would lead them to become co-champions of the design challenge.
Mentee Dante Greco-Henderson aligns the cardboard tube supports his team implemented for their prosthesis.
Co-champion teammate and mentee Miles Graham explains the tilting knee holding mechanism on the prosthesis demoed by mentor Jide Akinrunbi with support from mentor Andrew Berta.
Mentee Isaiah Adedeji shows off his prosthetic leg, encased in bubble wrap for extra durability.
Mentees Leah Delacruz and Kyara Gonzalez explain the merits of their prosthesis’s bulkier top as mentor Tahoura Samad observes and mentee Victoria Andrews models.
Mentees Love Victor and Mahamud Hashi opted for a minimalist design with their prosthesis, as modeled by mentor Nischal Bhandari.
Considering comfort and durability, one team demonstrated their prosthesis’s innovative strap.