Student invents robotic arm for the disabled

(VOVWORLD) - Eleventh-grader Pham Huy of Quang Tri province has invented a low-cost robotic arm for the disabled. Huy recently won third prize at an international science and engineering competition in the US.  
Student invents robotic arm for the disabled - ảnh 1 Pham Huy and his robotic product ahead of his departure to the US. (Photo: Quoc Nam) 

Born in Quang Tri, a province notorious for landmines, UXOs, accidents, and birth defects, Pham Huy nurtured the thought of creating a robotic arm to help handicapped people perform daily activities more easily.  

Huy says that when he was in the eighth grade, he watched a TV program about a robotic arm manufactured in the US which could be attached to the arm of a disabled person. He started thinking about how to make a more affordable and helpful product.

“Hands are important for anyone to be able to work. There are different kinds of robotic arms available in the market, which are controlled either by brain waves or by muscle impulses. But their use is limited. They can only help people who have one good arm, or at least partial use of one arm. And they are expensive. I wanted to create an arm that can help someone who has lost both their arms, and would be reasonably priced,” Huy said.

Huy spent two years studying the algorithms necessary to pursue his project. The principle of his invention is simple: it uses the movement of toes, feet, and legs to control fingers, hands and arms. A device uses sensors to send signals via electromagnetic waves to electronic circuits mounted on the robotic arm.

The special feature of the robotic arm is that it utilizes 3D printing technology to create parts with high precision. A single original design can produce multiple arms, each customized to match specific defects. According to Huy, the production cost is low—just 132 USD.

Huy and his teacher tested robotic arms on individuals with arm disabilities to gather data on where improvements were needed.

Huy’s robotic arms can manipulate light objects such as a spoon or a glass of water, lift a 2-kilogram weight, and carry objects as heavy as 11 kilograms.

He explained: “Through tests on local disabled persons, I discovered flaws and gradually improved the product. The technology I used is not state-of-the-art, but I’ve successfully solved problems that others haven’t. For example, mine can be used by someone who has lost both arms. And it’s cheap. My robotic arms can be controlled by one’s feet. I’ll continue improving the product and making it smaller and more usable.”

Student invents robotic arm for the disabled - ảnh 2 Pham Huy at the Intel international science and engineering competition in Califonia, US.

Huy’s product was praised by the jury of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2017 (Intel ISEF 2017) for its utility, low cost, and humanitarian value.

Competing against 1,700 high school students from 75 countries, Huy won third prize at the Fair, which was organized by the Society for Science & the Public in partnership with the Intel Foundation. Huy is the first student from Quang Tri to win an international award for a technological invention.

Student invents robotic arm for the disabled - ảnh 3Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thi Nghia presents the ministry’s certificate of merit  to Pham Huy. (Photo: Thu Hien) 

Nguyen Van Hung, Secretary of the Quang Tri Provincial Party Committee, said: “It’s a great achievement by Huy and his school. Science begins with humans and comes back to humans. That’s the humanity of scientific research. We are not satisfied with what we have achieved. But we consider it an important beginning of spreading the movement among students.”

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