Stony Brook Matters

Adaptive ‘DIY Prosthetics’ Engineering Program Inspires Middle and High School Students

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A new outreach program coined “DIY Prosthetics” introduces Long Island K-12 students to the basics of engineering design. Over 50 pre-college students of diverse backgrounds (gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class) have participated in the program, and crafted their own cardboard prosthetic hand using only simple household items. The project’s goal was to provide supplementary education to children ages middle school to high school and to inspire the next generation of STEM workers.

“The University Community Relations Office is proud to bring the campus and grade schools together for exploring career paths and learning new concepts,” said Joan Dickinson, director of community relations. “The DIY Prosthetics project is a great example of SBU’s engagement and commitment to serving Long Island.”

Developed together by Stony Brook’s Dr. M. Ete Chan and Michael Ly (Class of 2022), the program aims to foster community relations between the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and local Long Island organizations through a cross-collaborative approach. So far, the “DIY Prosthetics” series was held four times during the months of June and July across three instructional modes: virtual, hybrid, and in-person. 

The program was made possible with the support and collaboration of the Long Island Explorium, North Babylon High School, Stony Brook iCreate, Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Alpha Eta Mu Beta (AEMB), and Long Island Latino Teachers Association (LILTA) program which is managed in partnership with the University Community Relations Office.

“This event introduced the summer-campers to basic concepts in biomedical engineering and they ran a mini project right from research to creative execution,” said iCreate summer staff member Aakanksha Kirtane

During the program, students are taught the fundamentals of iterative design and learn about various prosthetic devices through notable references and representations in pop culture, such as Luke Skywalker’s prosthetic hand from Star Wars. Students also gained insight into how musculoskeletal tissue acts to move the body and how model components like cardboard, drinking straws, and string together attempts to replicate this functionality.

“I was delighted to be a part of the “DIY Prosthetics” project,” said Susan Campbell, educator, Long Island Explorium. “The project allowed educators from the Long Island Explorium to work with SBU professors and students. I believe that programs like the “DIY Prosthetics” project will help to inspire and create future engineers. The students from North Babylon High School were able to work in a competitive but comfortable environment which allowed them to explore new ideas and techniques. They were able to design and build a simple prosthetic hand while university students were available to assist when needed.”

Diy prosthetics groupEach event offers students an adapted look into the BME field based on their age group and the employed teaching method. For instance, older students gain more in-depth coverage in research and the iterative process while younger students are taught the core essentials of innovative design. In addition, events held virtually culminate in a group slide presentation whereas hybrid and in-person events involve some interactive games using the DIY prosthetics to make hand gestures. 

“The program was informative and detailed. The students thought it was fun and loved the idea of making a difference in someone’s life,” said David Ecker, director of iCreate.

“Partnerships and collaborations expand opportunities and open doors for scholars. By Joan Dickinson connecting our LILTA summer scholars with the SBU Department of Biomedical Engineering, our students were afforded a meaningful STEM activity to better understand the concept of prosthetics,” said exclaims Dafny Irizarry, President of the Long Island Latinos Teachers Association. “Having to create a prosthetic hand, helped our students live and better relate to STEM concepts rather than just reading about it. Regardless of the career path students choose, STEM activities like ‘DIY Prosthetics’ help students develop skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making, and many more skills in preparing them to be innovative far beyond. Mil gracias SBU!”

The “DIY Prosthetics” series provides an exciting opportunity for pre-college students to learn about engineering over the summer months. The outreach program plans to continue promoting early interest in STEM education throughout the next future years. As an extension of this program, Michael Ly and Dr. M. Ete Chan are creating 3D printed prosthetics in collaboration with Viraj Jayam from Helping Hands Long Island using resources from Enabling the Future.  Any interested volunteers and organizations may take part by contacting stonybrookbmes@gmail.com and sbuaemb@gmail.com.

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