Intrigued after reading a book on robots and prostheses, the children of Keating Elementary’s Red Cedar Book Club asked their teacher how they could learn more.
Teacher Sarah Windle contacted the University of Victoria’s Victoria Hand Project and asked if they could come and talk to the kids.
Earlier this month, Kelly Knights and Ashlynn Steeves, two biomedical students from UVic, who work on the project, visited the school and gave a detailed presentation, giving the children the opportunity to try on some of the devices.
“The presentation was very interesting and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Windle.
“Our Red Cedar Book club students read New Hands, New Life: Robots, Prostheses and Innovation by Alex Mihaildis and were thirsty to learn more about prostheses.”
Knights and Steeves showed a video that was well received and then took questions.
“The kids were an awesome audience,” said Knights, adding, “they were really engaged and asked thoughtful questions. They were interested in both the patient and product side of things.”
Knights has worked with the project for over two years in different capacities and the experience she has garnered means she would like to work in prosthetic design once she graduates from UVic.
The Victoria Hand Project is an innovative non-profit out of the university, headed by Nick Dechev. They design functional, user-friendly prosthetic arms that sling around amputees’ shoulders like backpack straps and the hand is operated by wearers shrugging their shoulders, which opens or closes the hand.
Designed and engineered at UVic, the designs are 3D printed in the recipient’s country and a local technician, trained by the Victoria Hand Project gives instruction and aftercare to them.
All 3D printers and prostheses are supplied by the Victoria Hand Project and their sponsors, including Google and Grand Challenges Canada, free of charge.
So far, 100 people use the arms in eight different countries, often the victims of poverty, accidents and natural disasters.
The prostheses are made out of PLA plastic and can be printed on demand, keeping costs low. They are typically used by below–elbow amputees and have adjustable wrists. They come in a variety of colours to suit skin tones and can be cosmetically customized too.
Knights laughed when asked what recipients’ reactions mean to her. “They’re the greatest reactions of all time. Everything I’m learning is all worth it, helping people in the real world is awesome.”