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Top-Down Design Enables Flexible Design of Prosthetic Forearms and Hands

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Design Graphics Division Technical Session 2 - Design & Manufacturing Topics

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

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Paper Authors


Guthrie J. Boleneus Eastern Washington University

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Guthrie Boleneus is a senior at Eastern Washington University, currently pursuing a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Manufacturing who expects to graduate in December of 2019. His background is in agriculture and he still works seasonally on the family farm. He is currently the Design Lead for the team of engineering students developing a 3D printable prosthetic arm utilizing Top Down Design methodology. Additionally, at Eastern Washington University, he is the president of EWU’s SAE Motor Sports club and a student member of both SME and ASME.

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Shannon M. Kellam

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Jacob Stewart


Robert E. Gerlick Eastern Washington University

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Dr. Gerlick is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Eastern Washington University. He teaches courses in the areas of Robotics, Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Fluids, CAD, and Capstone Design.

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B. Matthew Michaelis Eastern Washington University

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Matthew Michaelis is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. His research interests include additive manufacturing, advanced CAD modeling, and engineering pedagogy. Before transitioning to academia, he worked for years as a design engineer, engineering director, and research scientist and holds MS and PhD degrees from University of CA, Irvine and a B.S. degree from Walla Walla University.

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A service learning project where students learn and apply advanced CAD modeling techniques to the development of a parametric, fully customizable CAD assembly of prosthetic limbs is described. Engineering students, working with engineering faculty, designed and built prosthetic arms and hands using 3D printing for children in need within the local community. While existing CAD designs are available, customizing them to the very unique anatomy of users with missing or malformed upper extremities is a challenging process. One of the goals of this project was to streamline the customization process by customizing the prosthetic CAD models before the first part is printed. Top-down design is an advanced modeling approach that utilizes key parameters in a “skeleton” part to drive the size of all members of the prosthetic arm to greatly reduce customization time and allow nearly limitless customization. The educational goals of this project are to provide deep, applied learning of advanced CAD modeling (a key and broad mechanical engineering skill) techniques within the scope of a service learning project by harnessing the excitement and energy generated by this extracurricular project to amplify technical skill development. Project outcomes and perspectives from students and faculty are presented.

Boleneus, G. J., & Kellam, S. M., & Stewart, J., & Gerlick, R. E., & Michaelis, B. M. (2019, June), Top-Down Design Enables Flexible Design of Prosthetic Forearms and Hands Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33447

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