March 23, 2017

URI Students to Make Prosthetic Arms, Hands for Colombian Patients

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A team of four University of Rhode Island (URI) engineering students have received a $25,000 federal grant to design and make prosthetic arms and hands for people with upper-limb amputations in Colombia. The grant was received from the 100,000 Strong in Americas program, an initiative of former President Obama to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America to 100,000, and bring 100,000 students from Latin America to the United States by 2020.

The award—Sustainable Prostheses: An All-Inclusive Approach to Designing in the Americas—is a collaboration with SENA - Centro Nacional Colombo Alemán, Barranquilla, Colombia. The competition was funded by ExxonMobil, and open to higher education institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Guyana, Mexico, and Colombia.

The URI students, ranging from biomedical to mechanical engineering majors, and the Colombian students are already working together on the project through emails, Skype, and phone calls. In June, faculty and students from the SENA organization will visit URI to work on prosthetic designs, which they are expected to fabricate with a 3D printer based on measurements and specifications from the patients in Colombia. In August, the URI engineering students, the director of the URI Spanish International Engineering Program, and a URI assistant professor of biomedical engineering will travel to Colombia to refine the prostheses and work with the patients.

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