Colorado students create "game-changing" robotic prosthetics for student born without hands
A student at Colorado State University has received a "game-changing" gift from some of his peers after engineering students spent a year building a device that has changed his daily life forever. CSU engineering students used their senior project to build Jian Cohen new robotic prosthetic arms that have given him confidence he has never experienced before.
"These students at CSU did an amazing thing," Cohen said. "I was born without hands."
Robotic prosthetic arms can cost up to $70,000. For many years Cohen has had prosthetics he could use for many daily tasks, but they did not offer him the ability to eat and drink easily. Engineering students Zach Wilemon, Kileigh Palmer, Dillon Fiore, Amy Keisling and Mykala Coe saw Cohen's daily challenges as a challenge of their own, to help him live life more freely and simplistically.
"We started the project about a year ago," Palmer said.
Cohen has learned over the years how to be self-sufficient in most daily activities, including feeding himself
"I learned how to do everything using my feet. That is really cool for me to do it that way," Cohen said proudly.
However, Cohen said eating in public or at restaurants often came with the embarrassment caused by looks he would get from strangers.
"It is a very uncomfortable feeling. I understand that it is mostly curiosity and people don't realize the face they are making," Cohen said. "But if they make a disgusting face it is hurtful."
"We just wanted to improve his ability to eat in public and improve his life in general and make him as happy as possible," Wilemon said.
The group of students leaned into their education and educators at CSU to design new robotic prosthetic arms for Cohen that would allow him to hold, pinch and grab items at the dining table and elsewhere.
"It was super exciting that (the client we helped) was an actual student that goes to CSU," Palmer said.
However, like any project, prosthetics came with challenges and triumphs for the students and Cohen.
"It's unlike any project I have ever worked on," Wilemon said. "It took many hours over many days and weekends, late nights and a lot of coordination to work on."
Three weeks before the students presented their final project Cohen was given the opportunity to try them on for the first time.
"He got this big smile on his face and he looked at us and said, 'Man, I feel like Iron Man right now.' Honestly, that was the best thing we could have heard. It made everything worth it," Wilemon said.
"That was just an exhilarating experience right there," Cohen said.
Those involved with the project said they are comforted in knowing they have helped improved Cohen's daily life.
"My favorite part is seeing his smile," Palmer said.
Another group of engineering students also created technology that will one day help Cohen drive a car independently using his feet. The new software will allow him to steer with his left foot and accelerate or brake with his right. The group has already tested the software on a simulator and plans to install it into a car later this year.
Cohen said he is looking forward to driving independently. Until then, he is embracing his new robotic arms and hands. He is able to control the movement by manipulating buttons within the prosthetic. The battery life on the prosthetic arms lasts more than seven hours.
"It is a game changer," Cohen said. "It feels so natural. "I will be a lot more confident whenever I go into different places. Thank you. There are no words to describe how grateful I am for them."
for more features.