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Hopkins Engineering Undergrads' Inventions: Power Tools For Double Amputee, Military Surveillance Robot

Since losing his hands and forearms in a 1994 industrial accident, George Rickels, 59, of Baltimore, has wanted to do carpentry and minor home repairs without relying on another person for help. Three engineering undergraduates at The Johns Hopkins University, including one who is himself a double-amputee, have invented equipment to grant Rickels' wish.

Students Mili Ashar, Jay Humphries and Aaron Kim developed a mechanism that allows Rickels to attach a power drill, power saw or power screwdriver to his prosthetic arms without help from another person. Rickels made his request to the non-profit Volunteers for Medical Engineering organization, which handed the assignment to the students last fall.

The power tool mechanism was among 10 inventions constructed by Hopkins seniors in this year's Engineering Design Project course. The finished devices were judged in May by representatives of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, concluding a process that began last September when the three- member student teams were asked to solve real-world engineering challenges posed by corporate and institutional sponsors.

Creating the power-tool mechanism had special significance for Humphries, who lost his legs in a 1991 land mine explosion while serving with the U.S. Army in northern Iraq. Prosthetic limbs have restored much of his mobility, and he was anxious to help Rickels regain some independence as well. "It's really rewarding to see how we've helped the guy out," says Humphries, 26. "Just being able to do things without someone else's help is a really good feeling. It took me a while until I was able to function normally, so I know what the guy is going through."

For another project, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen posed this challenge to the engineering students: Create a snake-like robot that can slither across rugged terrain, staying close to the ground to avoid det
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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
410-516-7160
Johns Hopkins University
13-May-1997


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