Six students from the University of Calgary have designed a DIY prosthetic arm that costs less than $25 to put together — somebody’s getting an A.
The invention, called the Calgary Arm, is capable of picking up most small objects, including a pen to write with and a fork to eat with. The students wanted a design that was affordable and easy to maintain for people all over the world, many of whom can’t afford to buy or maintain regular prosthetics.
“The objects that we bought, you should be able to buy anywhere. If it’s not bought, it was out of our recycling bins,” engineering student Tyler Anker told CTV News.
Anker and his fellow peers, Rohan Antony, Joel Neumann, Peter Hillman, Amanda Mackey and Shalese Baxandall, put the contraption together for the Schulich School of Engineering’s Capstone Design Fair. They were competing against lots of other high-tech gadgets, from drones to augmented reality devices, but their design, which uses pneumatics (basically air pressure power) and a cobbled-together assortment of hardware store materials with some recycled goods tossed in (and duct tape, of course), is so simple it’s brilliant.
A sugar-filled balloon is connected to a bike pump that’s been reversed to suck instead of blow, which can be operated by foot. When the pump creates a vacuum in the pop bottle chamber, it sucks the air out of the balloon and then squeezes the sugar around the object enough to pick it up.
Although it’s a pretty simple device, there was quite a bit of math that went into the design process. The students have already produced the step-by-step video tutorial and posted it online in hopes that the Calgary Arm can begin to change amputees’ lives as soon as possible. It’s even grabbed the interest of a few non-profit groups that assist amputees in developing countries.
“It helps the world, and I feel good about that,” Baxandall told CTV.
Somebody give these kids a scholarship already!