Students of Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) developed prototypes of bionic prostheses of the upper and lower extremities and a muscle electrostimulator with exoskeleton elements. Three teams presented their inventions in the final of the Battle of Neuroengineers competition and were awarded grants from the University to participate in outreach scientific conferences and forums on bioengineering.
Students have worked on projects throughout the academic year. To begin with, they studied the market, and then proceeded to translate ideas jointly with the experts of the FEFU Medical Center. The consultants of the teams were psychologists, software programmers, marketers, materials engineers, designers, and people with disabilities.
The ART-Bionics team presented a prototype prosthetic arm. The main feature of the invention is its economic feasibility: the prosthesis is constructed from inexpensive materials at a cost of about 60,000 rubles, while the minimum price of analogues starts at half a million rubles. For the time being the students made a prototype hand with 22 degrees of freedom of movement. Now they are developing a model with a wireless charger, which uses the transmission of brain, rather than muscle impulses.
The EXO FEET I team developed an external muscle electrostimulator with exoskeleton elements. This innovation will be useful for people with vertebral spinal injuries or for the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered a stroke. The stimulator turned out to be lighter than analogues and does not require additional support when used. The basis of the design is a metal supporting frame, but the students plan to make it of composite materials in the future, which will provide shock resistance, lightweight, and practicality in use.
The Alpha team presented a prototype of a leg prosthesis that will solve the issues of anatomical similarity, energy consumption, and will facilitate the patient's climbing the stairs. The students use a servo drive in their technology, which is able to analyze the actions. There are plans also to test the thermo-active polymers in the invention: with their help one can increase the time of the prosthesis use for several hours. The students intend to install special software in the motherboard, to add test experience, so that the prosthesis can independently 'make decisions'.
Kirill Golokhvast, FEFU Vice President for Research, pointed out that the development of students looks very worthy even now and can be used in practice.
“Modern prosthetics are very expensive, so the challenge that student teams threw to the high medical technology market is a very bold step,” said Kirill Golokhvast. “The University will support the further implementation of projects and the protection of copyright. Despite all the simplicity, each of the developments has the advantage: they need to be patented and we need fight over market share.”
According to Arthur Biktimirov, the curator of the Battle of Neuro-Engineers, neurosurgeon of the FEFU Medical Center, there are plans to prepare students' teams for the cybertalon, which will be held in Switzerland in 2020. These competitions gather the creators of prostheses, neurointerfaces, exoskeletons, and power equipment from around the world.