University of Delaware
UD engineering undergraduates showcased new inventions at an engineering design expo held May 9.

Engineering designs

UD engineering undergraduates showcase new inventions at design expo


8:59 a.m., May 23, 2013--From quick-change prosthetic legs for triathletes to assistive rowing devices, undergraduates in the University of Delaware’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering Program showcased their semester-long design projects at a first of its kind juried research design presentation at Pearson Hall on May 9. 

The students’ research was conducted in collaboration with industry sponsors Yes U Can Foundation and Independence Orthotics and Prosthetics, and in cooperation with UD men’s and women’s crew teams.

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Alan Panaccione, Nick Sava and Dan Reynolds were among the approximately 200 freshmen, sophomores and juniors who converged to present their research and various functioning prosthetic prototypes.

The three sophomores devised a multi-functional prosthesis to enable above-the-knee amputees to better compete in triathlons. “Previously athletes would have to switch their entire leg when they transitioned from biking to running. With our design, the transition time is reduced from eight minutes to maybe eight seconds,” explained Panaccione.

Panaccione held a working prosthetic model as the team explained their design. The team pointed to a simple pin pull feature that would allow easy removal of the competitor’s leg from the bike’s pedal and subsequent attachment of a running prosthetic extension in a matter of seconds. 

Jenni Buckley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering who organized the event, commented, “This event provides the participating students a forum to practice presenting their research and field any questions a professional or professor might have.”

She continued, “When these students become seniors and participate in their senior design capstone projects they are working with real clients, real industry sponsors and there is real money on the line. This is one way we train our students to handle engineering problems in the real world.”

John Horne, president and founder of Independence Orthotics and Prosthetics, sponsored the prosthesis design portion of the event. Horne spoke to the students at the beginning of the semester, urging them to be creative and produce an eclectic, one of a kind prosthetic that could potentially fill a market niche.

When asked what he thought about the projects, Horne commented, “It’s amazing what this group has come up with at this level. It’s very innovative.”

After explaining her design for a simple assistive ice skating prosthetic, sophomore Amanda Winkelmayer commented, “This event provides an amazing hands-on experience that demonstrates what would actually happen in the field and how to approach problem solving in a real life situation.”

Also at the event were freshman students who designed and built cheap and effective heavy bag holders for use in mixed martial arts, junior students who presented their research on assistive rowing devices and biomedical engineering students showcased their research on muscle stimulation systems for rowing.

Article by Gregory Holt 

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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