News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 12, 2012

Rose students design device to help Rockville boy


Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Daniel Wilson is like any other 8-year-old — curious, fun-loving and is a fan of dinosaurs. However, a longitudinal deficiency from birth severely limits the use of his right arm. This made it hard for him to swing a bat, ride a bike or swing across the monkey bars on his school playground.

Most of these things are now possible through a specially designed prosthetic device by recent Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology biomedical engineering graduates Mark Calhoun and Jacob Price.

They used state-of-the-art computer-aided design and engineering  software (developed by Siemens) to create the device that utilizes seven subsystems to make Daniel’s life easier.

Siemens learned about the project and contacted two renowned filmmakers to make a mini-documentary for the global company’s “answers” campaign about real people being impacted by Siemens technology. It has become an Internet sensation, attracting viewers from throughout the world since its release last month.

View the video at www.siemens.com/entry/cc/en.

“Daniel is an awesome kid, the Wilsons are an awesome family and I could not be more grateful with being given this opportunity,” says Price, a Terre Haute native who has started his engineering career in Indianapolis.

“I’ll never forget seeing Daniel engaging in the meetings, seeing the pictures of him wearing his prosthetic weeks after we delivered it, and watching him use it to pick up toys and scratch his mom’s back,” Price said. “There’s no better feeling than that of making a difference in someone’s life.”

Calhoun, now a biomedical engineering graduate school at Ohio State University, adds: “Taking the prosthetic from the drawing board to fruition was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Through all the highs and lows of a tough project like this one, you find something out about yourself. I found that I truly enjoyed overcoming adversity in order to create something truly special.”

He continues, “There were a few times during the process where it seemed like there just wasn’t enough time to finish it. On a Friday evening, one of our last few days to work on the project, we made one final push and got it finished. It wasn’t until we arrived at Daniel’s house a couple days later when we realized what we had just done. We had gone beyond all expectations and created something to truly improve someone’s quality of life. I believe that’s something truly special, and I take a tremendous amount of pride in that.”

Daniel has given the prosthesis an affectionate nickname, “Pinchy,” because of its two finger-like extensions that he uses to grasp objects. He cherishes the device, not wanting to break it, says his mother, Emily.

“The impact that this project has had on Daniel’s life can’t really be described in words,” she says. “The relationship that blossomed with Jacob, Mark and our whole family has affected us all. Daniel loves Mark and Jacob, and really looks up to them. Daniel is so proud that he was able to be involved in every aspect of the design process. I think that really helped boost his self-confidence. I hope that from this experience Daniel will grow up and do something like this for someone else.”

The device was one of 12 biomedical engineering senior-year capstone projects completed in 2011-12, under the supervision of professors Kay C Dee, Ph.D, Glen Livesay, Ph.D., and Renee Rogge, Ph.D. Other devices constructed included a custom-design walker for a kindergarten student, a vest-like device that corrects proprioception dysfunction and severely-slouched shoulders for children, a lightweight brace that corrects ankle pronation and an insole device that measures and redistributes the stresses on an athlete’s foot.

“Real projects for real clients help our students make real connections to what they can do with engineering,” states Livesay. “The team that worked with Daniel really exemplifies what we’re striving for in design: creative solutions and lots of hard work that enable our students to have a strong, positive impact on the lives of people in our community.”

Dee adds, “Design projects let our students use all of the skills in their ‘toolbox’: professionalism, creativity, technical knowledge, interpersonal communication skills, independent time management skills, hands-on building and technical documentation skills. These are incredible learning opportunities for our students.”

Siemens PLM Software provided Rose-Hulman a $27.8 million in-kind software grant last year to provide students with the latest advanced hands-on training tools to lead the next generation of engineers for innovative, high-tech careers. The software is being used by students to develop cutting-edge technology in classrooms, laboratories and advanced transportation competition teams.

“At Rose-Hulman, students work with the latest software and simulation programs from Siemens PLM Software to create a lot of exciting projects,” states Bill Boswell, senior director of partner strategy for Siemens PLM Software.