For the past several months, Elizabeth Jackson (an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology and active e-NABLEr) has dedicated her entire Spring semester to work on the design of the Airy Arm under a research grant provided by The Brain Recovery Project to the university’s M.A.G.I.C. lab. The Airy Arm is a 3D printable hand exoskeleton for children with hemiparesis. (Learn more about the beginnings of the Airy Arm here.)
But she needed a partner in crime. A child with hemiplegia who would give his honest opinion about whether the Airy Arm would help in real life situations and whose family would be willing to trek him back and forth to Rochester for numerous fittings. She found that partner in Candon Westervelt, who at the age of 9 years old had half of his brain removed to stop the progression of Rasmussen’s encephalitis, a catastrophic disease which causes seizures that are unresponsive to anti-epileptic drugs. Candon’s story is told here on a recent news show:
How The Airy Arm Works
The user of the Airy Arm needs some shoulder and upper arm movement, which most children with hemiparesis still have. When the arm is moved outward, the hand on the airy arm opens the fingers – something that is very difficult for a child with hemiparesis to do. When the arm is moved inward, the Airy Arm mechanically closes the hand – allowing the child to grasp an item. But it doesn’t allow Candon to grasp around a kayak paddle or bike handle, two of Candon’s favorite sports. At least not yet….
Candon shows us how it works here:
What Are The Next Steps?
In a few short weeks, documentation of the design will be shared by Elizabeth with the entire e-NABLE community. There’s already an online design forum devoted to the Airy Arm. Once the design is released, it is our hope that the community of e-NABLE volunteers will collectively improve on the design over the next several months. We cannot wait to see what you come up with. Once the design is finished, parents of children with hemiparesis will be able to measure their child’s arm, download the print design, and then take it to one of the 150+ Office Depot locations that now offer in-store 3D printing. The arm can then be assembled by a parent themselves.
Thank you Elizabeth Jackson for your incredible mind and your dedication to this project. And to the other e-NABLE community members who helped with the initial design like Ivan Owen, Jorge Zuniga, Jean Peck, Alex Madinger, Nick Parker, and Jon Schull. And to the Rochester Institute of Technology for remaining on the forefront of true innovation.
But most of all, thank you to Candon Westervelt for inspiring us to support projects like this. You’re changing the world.