Researching and Designing Effective, Inexpensive Prosthetics – Xan

In a continuation of a project that has been going on at Westtown School since 2014, I will be working on the research, design and construction of inexpensive prosthetic hands for children – focusing on designing and implementing the complex prosthesis for one child in particular.

In the project so far, our small group of five has 3D printed three different prosthetic hands for two different children – a young boy and a young girl, both of whom were born without their left hands. During this independent project, my area of focus will be on the systems used by the boy to control his prosthetic.

As it is now, most 3D printed hands use the mechanical action of a wrist in order to close the hand and grasp objects. Unfortunately, as he lacks a complete wrist, the boy has been unable to use that particular control method – making it necessary to seek out new control methods.

During the first phase of this project, my hope is to evaluate the viability of using electromyographic (EMG) signals (the electrical signals used by our bodies to control muscle groups) to control the prosthetic hand. If all goes well, I hope that I will be able to sense and use the EMG signals in the boy’s arm to control a small computer, which in turn could control motors, servos, or actuators on the prosthetic.

In the coming weeks, I will try to obtain the parts necessary to gather the electromyographical data. Hopefully, by the end of next month, a control system will have been chosen.

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