Girl powered — merging function and fashion

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For students in the Opus College of Engineering, the senior design project represents the pinnacle of their Marquette experience — a chance to show they can work on a collaborative team to create a functional prototype of a machine designed to tackle one of any number of real-world challenges. Several of the senior design projects are designed to serve others, reflecting the spirit of Marquette’s mission as well as the spirit of ingenuity.

Forward motion — One of this year’s project teams designed a device to help children with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition that limits joint development and movement. Children with AMC often have limited use of their arms. This team designed a tool to help three girls with AMC get dressed without the help of their parents or caregivers — a serious self-esteem booster.

“Honestly, it was really satisfying,” says team member Kaitlin Conti, Eng ’14. “Going into biomedical engineering, you pretty much have this need to want to help. Working one on one with clients and seeing that satisfaction is just so satisfying. It’s amazing to know that you’re helping them and it’s going to benefit them for an extended period of time and only improve their lives. It’s great to help a little bit.”

Creative brainstorming — Starting from scratch required plenty of creativity. “I think that’s the most fun part,” says team member Heidi Klancnik, Eng ’14. “We would all agree that’s what was so awesome about this device. When we were brainstorming, we asked, ‘Well, how would you put on a shirt if you couldn’t use your arms?’”

The final version looked pretty slick, thanks to a long-standing partnership between the Opus College of Engineering and the nearby Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. The MIAD students joined the engineering senior design project team to offer an industrial designer’s perspective. “Our end users are tween girls who like pretty-looking things,” says team member Alia Mian, Eng ’14. “They would not have liked a device that was put together with duct tape.”

Team effort  — Students worked this summer to build two additional versions of their prototype. They delivered the devices to the families that need them. They also presented the device at a national arthrogryposis multiplex congenita conference in Minneapolis.

Biomedical engineering professor Dr. Jay Goldberg, the team’s adviser, says the MIAD students contribute fresh ideas and help the engineering students learn how to work with team members from different backgrounds, just like they will in the working world. “If everybody was the same, you’d be coming up with the same ideas all the time and you wouldn’t be looking at them from different perspectives,” Goldberg says. • CJ

How it works

1 The device incorporates a U-shaped PVC pipe with two large clips to hold the end of a T-shirt in place.

2 The user sits on a bench and operates a pedal with her foot — many AMC patients learn to use their feet to assist with performing everyday tasks.

3 The user leans forward and the electric motor whirs to gently lift the shirt above her head and onto her body.

 

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