News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 21, 2012

Luncheon celebrates Rose service clubs

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When Emily Wilson saw an article in the Tribune-Star last year about a program at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology that might help her son, she quickly contacted RHIT for what has become a life-changing experience.

Her 8-year-old child, Daniel Wilson, was born with an incomplete right arm. But as he demonstrated Tuesday to a large audience at RHIT’s Service Club Luncheon, he can now use his prosthetic arm to do many tasks others take for granted.

“Cool,” Daniel replied when asked what fellow third-graders at Rockville Elementary School think about his red plastic arm.

The boy is protective of the device, and even had his father modify it a bit so the arm can be turned off during the day to conserve its battery.

The prosthetic device was designed by RHIT students Jacob Price and Mark Calhoun, both biomedical engineering majors, who designed the arm using state-of-the-art computer-aided design and engineering software donated to the college by Siemens.

Price, a graduate of Terre Haute North Vigo High School, now works for an Indianapolis company. But he returned to campus Tuesday and sat with Daniel and his parents Charles and Emily during the luncheon, answering questions later about the project.

After Emily Wilson contacted RHIT and applied to have her son’s need become one of the student projects, Price and Calhoun met with Daniel and his family at their Rockville home to discuss the design of the arm. The boy wanted his new arm to be red, and so it is made of the same plastic material used to make Lego building blocks. The arm has an elbow joint, a wrist that rotates and two prongs on the end that can grab and hook onto items.

Inside the arm are two sliders and a button that Daniel can touch to move the arm.

“Daniel helped a lot,” his mother said of the project. “And Jacob and Mark were great with him. The brought all their drawings and let him pitch what he wanted.”

The success of the project was highlighted during the luncheon by RHIT’s interim President Robert Coons, who also uplifted the Rose-Hulman Ventures program presented by vice president Elizabeth Hagerman.

Hagerman shared how Ventures invites companies large or small to bring their engineering dilemma to the students to see what solutions can be found. For one company, a software program was developed to automate hiring procedures. For another, a system was designed to detect kidney function in real time. Another company received manufacturing assistance in developing a clot retrieval device for stroke treatments.

Those types of projects gain the students experience on real-world engineering projects, and have increased RHIT’s visibility as an engineering school, she said.