While most high school students spend their summer months washing dishes, flipping burgers or lying poolside, a group of young Makers from Granada Hills Charter High School used their time and knowledge to design a low-cost exoskeleton that would help children with cerebral palsy learn to walk.
The project is a result of a partnership between the Los Angeles-based GHCHS Robotics Club and Not Impossible Labs, who has become well-known for using technological innovations to improve individual livelihoods as well as humanity as a whole.
Many exoskeleton designs built to aid those inflicted with cerebral palsy can set you back anywhere between $300,000 – $500,000, but the students worked to create a system that would cost a fraction of that sum.
Using 3D-printed parts, four motors, a treadmill and a harness, the GHCHS team led by Joel Simonoff was able to devise a fully-functional prototype.
“We are incredibly excited because we have started to have the motors run simulated patterns. We are very excited to see that, even at full speed, the motor stops on a dime, and they are very accurate down to a few tenths of a degree,” Simonoff said.
With their first iteration completed, the team was privileged to receive working feedback from Dylan Edwards, PhD, PT and David Putrino, PhD, PT of the renowned Burke Rehabilitation Center.
This expert input will surely help guide the young Makers’ design down the proper path. While the team has seen some major successes like the unit’s instant stopping ability, they have recently reached out to the programming community at large to figure out how to have the hips and knees move in unison. In true Maker form, Simonoff and his team will steadily enhance their project, as they look forward to the day they will be able provide a cheaper therapy option for those with cerebral palsy.
In the words of Not Impossible Labs, this entire endeavor “is all about kids helping kids.” During a time that many of their peers may have wasted away, these kids were working diligently to improve the lives of others.
As Makers continue to explore the use of 3D printing to enhance the lives of those with disabilities, it’s exciting to see what medical marvels the next generation of Makers will develop using Atmel powered machines.