News — 01 January 2014
Science students offer a helping hand

Dee Faught, 17, has a genetic condition, osteogenesis imperfecta, which makes his bones unmanageably brittle. However, thanks to a keen team of students from Rice University, Houston, things for him are looking up.

The bioengineering students won Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering Design Showcase and Competition last April for their R-ARM – a robotic device that fits Dee’s motorised chair. A video game controller allows him to manoeuvre the robotic arm and perform tasks that he could only have dreamed of before.

“He’s an incredible kid,” said one of the design team. “I think that’s part of the reason we stuck with it. If it was just an abstract kind of project, we would have been less motivated. But the fact that we were building it for Dee drove us. We didn’t want to disappoint him.” The students hope to commercialise the product after graduation. “Now that I’m going to get it, I can’t wait. Not many kids I know get to get a robotic arm,” commented Dee gleefully.

It is Dee´s doctor, Gloria Gogola – an orthopedic surgeon who has advised several design teams at Rice – who is particularly impressed: “I expected a high level of engineering talent, but I was astounded at the amount of sensitivity they had toward Dee. It gives me hope that there are young engineers out there who are so sensitive to people with special needs who are fantastic in their own right.”

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