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These Engineering Students Turned a Simple Assignment Into Two Years of Hard Work, Innovation and Kindness

January 13, 2014
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These Engineering Students Turned a Simple Assignment Into Two Years of Hard Work, Innovation and Kindness
Dan Ruscoe/Flickr
Three undergraduates built a robotic arm for a disabled teenager.

In their first year as engineering students at Rice University,  Nimish Mittal, Matthew Najoomi and Sergio Gonzales were assigned to build a device that solved a local person’s problem. They soon learned about Dee Faught, a 17-year-old suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. And after meeting him at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Houston, they began designing a mobile robotic arm he could use to do simple things that were impossible for his own hands, such as turning on a light or picking up an object. The project turned out to be a major challenge. “We hit a ton of roadblocks,” Gonzales told Joe Palca of NPR, but when the class ended, the team knew they couldn’t give up. Two years later, after working on the project in their free time, the students gave the robotic arm to Faught, who immediately began using it to perform simple tasks. After this success, the engineers plan to continue using their skills to help others. “This has definitely refined the engineering I want to do,” Gonzalez told Palca. “Because it’s an engineering focused on helping people.”

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