EnableUC-Engineering Students Changing the World with 3D Printing

                                                           enableuc
EnableUC, a University of Cincinnati engineering student group, is on a mission.
Quite simply, they want to make your life better. This inspirational group, whose work on providing prosthetic limbs, created by 3-D printing to underprivileged individuals,  have taken the time to share their story with us.
Below, is an email interview primarily with Michael, member of EnableUC, edited only for clarity.
1. Can you tell Wide Open Research readers a bit about how you wanted to go into engineering and specifically how you chose to work on the prosthetics?
“For me personally, I always have wanted to help people out medically because I see it as one of the most immediate ways to improve someone’s life as well as get to work directly with the people you help.
As I explored majors and careers, however, I felt that my mind was more engineering driven. With this in mind, biomedical engineering just seemed like a perfect fit. I thought initially that a lot of BMEs do prosthetics and such, but the major is much more broad, and I never was really exposed to that world until Jacob, our president and founder, reached out to me about starting Enable UC.
I think Jacob really saw an opportunity through the larger E-nable open source site to help patients he had interacted with at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime. Since kids are constantly growing, they don’t want to waste it at that age, but a lot of times. by the time a child is fully grown, they are so used to using their non defective hand that when they actually get a prosthetic, they don’t even use it. This helps  combat both of those issues.”

“The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime.”

2.  What sort of general knowledge did you learn in high school that was foundational for your engineering success at college? Concepts, skills, facts, etc. 
“I would say the biggest thing I learned is how to solve problems. While the classes I take here can sometimes be much different than my high school classes, I would say the science and math I took began to help me find ways to solve problems, and that is really what an engineer’s job is all about. So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

“So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

3. How much time do you commit to the Enable team and how do you balance your class responsibilities? What advice would you give high school students on managing the demands of college….
“I personally work on a lot of the upfront patient relations of the enable team, so a lot of my time was spent up front finding patients for us to design solutions for.
While this takes some time, I would say the best things to do are to be realistic with your time, schedule it out, and write down the things you want to accomplish and get done with each task.
The biggest advice I would give to a high schooler transitioning into college is to establish habits early and stick to them because they will create your patterns for the rest of your career. “
4.  What are some cool science/tech things you wished you would have explored more in high school?
“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity and help you understand the trajectory of science and tech moving forward.
Things like 3D printing, unique clean energy solutions, nano-technology, and more are really cool things that show how much our world is constantly innovating and creating new solutions to the many problems we have in our world.”

“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity….”

5. Did you have any moments in high school where it really became apparent that you wanted to go into engineering? Any classes or teachers that really inspired you?
“I don’t remember their being a really strong moment for me in terms of an ah-ha moment, but I do remember absolutely loving designing both a mouse trap car and a Rube Goldberg device during my science classes in high school.
What I think I loved was figuring out how to best solve the problem and doing so in a group setting that allowed me to work with and understand a team and how each individual works within that team to solve our problem.”

6.  With the many distractions that high school students face these days, how would you recommend teachers really engage students?
“I think one really unique way to do this would be to challenge them at the beginning to tell me some cool things they might want to learn from the subject and having them outline some of what they want to get out of the class besides just an A.
I think if that could then be tied in more deeply with the lesson plans, that would help engage students because they would feel they had an active part in determining their learning.”
7. Any  luck with the crowd funded project?
“We have had some awesome luck with it. We reached our initial goal to provide funding for our first myo-electric prosthetic project, which is currently in the design process already! We think our unique organization allows students to really get hands on experience and change lives. This translates really well to people who might have a few bucks to get rid of. I think we will continue to see this success moving forward as well.”
A hand they made from 3-D printing:
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8.  I know  that Enable UC was interested in helping high school students who might not know much about engineering become exposed to the field. What sort of outreach have you been working on?
“We have done some local Cincinnati high school outreach where we are basically trying to get students exposed to what we do by showing them our organization as well as providing seminars about engineering, design, Solidworks, etc.
This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at UC to try to draw them towards engineering. We also plan to go into schools and set up those seminars that I mentioned, but we are in the early stages of our outreach.”

“This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at University of Cincinnati to try to draw them towards engineering.”

9. Any good ideas about how to help more “non-traditional” students become interested in engineering?
“I think the best way to get non-traditional students to really get interested in engineering is to relate it to their interests. For example, maybe they are an athlete. Being able to teach them about the forces their muscles provide when doing their sport could make them interested in engineering. Just finding ways to relate engineering concepts to their interests is the best way to pique someone’s interest.”
After graduation Michael is going to be working in a tech-start-up, other UCEnable members are continuing their studies in medical school, graduate school, and work in the medical device industry.
EnableUC is still seeking to serve. So, if you would like to contact them to get more information about their group or if you know someone who could benefit from their work on prosthetics please reach out to them @EnableUC.
For more reading on 3-D Printing, please read this article:

Inspired Research at the University of Cincinnati

It is easy to be frustrated by the world of education these days, when every decision both internally and externally becomes a conflict-when protecting egos and turf are prime motivators, when hyper-competitiveness seems to crush the joy of learning on many days. Sigh…. 

So, I am always grateful to come across an a story  that inspires me and reaffirms my hope in our students, for our future. 

If you are looking for such an article, please check out Jac Kern’s excellent piece in the University of Cincinnati magazine, about a student led engineering society, EnableUC, who decided to put their love of engineering to good use- to help make low-cost prosthetic devices for pediatric patients.

It focuses on the president of the campus group, an exceptional person, Jacob Knorr, who is focused not only on serving  the needs of those who might benefit from their prosthetic technology, but  he is eager to share his love of engineering with high school students, especially those that might not have access to engineering mentors.

Knorr is quoted in the article,” We’re working on high school outreach to get that next generation of students interested so they can go to school for engineering.”

It is my sincere hope that Knorr and EnableUC succeed in their mission of inspiring students not to only become engineers, but to use their talents and gifts to serve those who are less fortunate.

If all of us adult educators would keep focused on that same mission, what a beautiful world we could create. Thanks for the great article and keep up the great work, EnableUC!

The article has a link to their upcoming plans and projects for a low-cost battery powered prosthetic hand that the group is working on. Please share with your friends! 

Leave a comment below and let us know who in the world of research is inspiring you these days!

Questions for Discussion

  1. How has 3-D printing revolutionized prosthetic development?
  2. What parts of the world might benefit most from this low-cost technology?
  3. What is the dual mission of EnableUC?
  4. What new technology is EnableUC trying to develop?
  5. What other ideas could your students do to use 3-d printing to help those in need?
  6. What are 5 things in your classroom that were developed by engineers or designers?

What else does this inspire you to “learn,dream,do?”

Another Wide Open Research post about outreach with 3-d Printers.

Life Minus Oxygen?

 

rockswater

Congratulations to University of Cincinnati assistant professor of geology, Andrew Czaga and his team for finding fossils that reportedly existed prior to the existence of oxygen on this planet. For more information, you definitely want to check out Melanie Shefft’s piece in the new issue of UC Magazine.

Professor Czaga is quoted  in this piece, “These are the oldest reported sulfur bacteria to date.” At approximately 2.5 billion years old, these specimens taken from South Africa are large and spherically shaped.

This excellent, detailed article and brief video of a 3-d image of the bacteria would be of great interest to teachers of Geology and Biology.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What geologic era is this discovery from?
  2. How are these organisms described? What current organisms are similar to them?
  3. What was the name of the major supercontinent comprised of South Africa and Western Australia?
  4. When did the Great Oxidation Event occur?
  5. What was the Great Oxidation Event?
  6. Describe the process of “recycling”  as explained in the article.
  7. Looking at the graph, what do you think the “photic limit” means?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”