More than 100 engineers, designers, makers, technology industry leaders, veterans, and students, ranging in age from 10 to 70 years old, gathered at the McGuire VA Medical Center (McGuire VAMC), Richmond, Virginia, on July 28-29 to participate in the finale of the Innovation Creation Challenge Series hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Innovation. The purpose of the challenge, which was launched in May, was to use 3D printing technology to create and test prosthetic designs that meet the needs of veterans with disabilities. The completed designs were presented July 29 and reviewed by veterans and an expert panel of judges from the VA, Google, General Electric, and Toyota. Google provided $26,000 in prize money.
Army Sergeant Lisamarie Wiley, who lost her lower left leg when she stepped on a mine while serving in Afghanistan, presented one of the challenges.
“I wanted to run. I wanted to walk. I wanted to jog, I wanted to get back into roller skates,” she said. “I needed to be back in boots… to go back to active duty.” Wiley now has 12 different prostheses. Each one is different, from purpose to fit, to size and shoe type. “I have one, maybe two sockets that fit perfectly… two sockets that fit out of my 12,” she said.
With a lack of consistency in the fit of her prostheses, she said she is frustrated with the process and degree of difficulty it takes to change between them. She asked the makers to help come up with a device that standardizes the sockets for the multiple prostheses, and to find or invent a system to easily switch between them.
Team Spline rose to the challenge. Green Hope High School Robotics Club members Ausvin Khanna, Mihir Shelke, and Jason Suh; nuclear engineer Matthew Kelly; Matt Baker, the outreach education coordinator from the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond; and McGuire VAMC employee Rod Goode created a low-cost, three-piece coupling system that attaches to the bottom of the socket, allowing the user to change a transtibial prosthesis within minutes. They were awarded the $20,000 overall prize. The team filed the coupler with the National Institutes for Health as an open-source design.
The following were among the other prize winners: First place and $2,000 was awarded to Iris Lin and Kaila Grenier, who designed a glucose tester that a person who wears a split-hook prosthesis could use. Second place and $1,000 was awarded to a team that designed the “Camo Cup,” which regulates the flow of liquids for people with dysphagia. Edward McCarron, MD was awarded $1,000 for his entry, the “Grip Strength + Speed Upper Extremity Prosthetic Challenge.” Team Duck and Cover was recognized as the best Under 18 team for a prosthetic coupler they developed.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.