The ripple effect of donor support to Purdue University scholarships is having a life-changing impact for one little boy by providing a life-changing experience for a Purdue student, her classmates and their industry partners.

Lucas Resch

Thanks to a successful mechanical and biomedical engineering senior design project, Lucas Resch, now 5, is equipped with a custom-fitted prosthetic limb that allows him to run, play and ride his bike despite a rare, nonhereditary birth defect that affects his mobility.

Lucas Resch, now 5, was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), a rare, nonhereditary birth defect that affects the pelvis, particularly the hipbone and the proximal femur or thighbone. The boy’s parents, Ned and Melissa Resch, wanted him to have the ability to ride a bike and play like his friends do — activities traditional prosthetic devices did not allow.

 

Efforts to find an alternative solution to radical procedures proposed by their healthcare professionals led Ned to an Internet search. In his search, he discovered a YouTube video of a Purdue University mechanical engineering senior design project from 2009 in which students worked on a prosthesis for a 12-year old Indiana boy with PFFD to have a full and functioning leg.

“He was able to run and ride a bike — two of the things we want very much for Lucas,” Resch says. With a newfound hope, he contacted Purdue to see if something could be done for Lucas.

Darryl Dickerson, president of Adapt-IF Technologies, believed they could help Lucas. Dickerson’s non-profit enterprise provides assistive technologies designed by Purdue student engineers specifically for children with rare or orphan diseases and disorders. Adapt- IF’s role brings the client to the students so they can do the development. Bio Regeneration Technologies then manufactures the devices.

Lucas Resch
The custom assistive technology device developed by students and manufactured by Bio Regeneration Technologies was on display at the senior engineering design competition in December 2012.

Today, Lucas has his new leg. There are still issues to work out on the device but he’s doing all the things his parents dreamed he’d do — thanks to Purdue University and its creative partnerships.

“This group of students, in just five months, designed the gearbox that controls Lucas’ “super hero” leg,” says Ned Resch. “Right now, he’s Captain America. They even put an American flag on it for him.”

And it all comes back to the power of giving. The scholarship package Purdue offered and the First-Year Engineering Program all Purdue engineering students are required to complete drew Guerra to select Purdue to pursue her dream over other top universities.

“It’s cool to think about the donors who are so proud of their alma mater that they want to give back and allow someone else to have that experience and opportunity to succeed in life because of this education,” Guerra says.

The payoffs in “paying it forward” have never been more evident than in seeing Alex Guerra watch Lucas Resch kick a soccer ball and ride his bike — the things his parents hoped for from the beginning. Giving helps create a better tomorrow. And the story of a better tomorrow for both Guerra and for the Resch family is happening now.

“I work with Eric Nauman, professor of mechanical engineering and we give them a basic problem statement,” Dickerson explains. “Students then have to come up with a conceptual design to develop a prototype.”

Enter Alexandra (Alex) Guerra (BME ’13), recipient of the President’s and Trustee’s Scholarship, “This was the one I named as my top pick for my senior engineering project,” says Guerra. “I had known about it because I worked with Dr. Nauman in his research during my junior year. He emailed his research team to let us know about it.

“For me, this was the only project that I knew, no matter what happened during the semester, no matter how long the hours or how much time was spent, I would still be really excited at the end,” Guerra explains. “I think part of that comes from having an actual client. Engineers like to see the results of their actions even as small as they are — especially in the biomechanical industry where medical devices can take up to five years to get on the market. This project has a real-life application — immediately — and you can see the reaction.”

Guerra knew from her junior year in high school she wanted to be an engineer and after researching the different disciplines, chose biomedical engineering. “I want to work on devices or therapeutic issues as it relates to sports medicine — biomechanics,” she says. “I recognize our devices don’t always work just the way we make them. We have to fix them to fit the person and their own individual issue.

Grateful for the opportunity to work on this project, what Guerra has worked so hard to learn over the last three years is paying off. “We’re not full engineers and there is a lot of pressure to design something for a real client,” she says. “But at the same time, it drives us to get things done and the reward is knowing we can contribute to helping this one little boy with this problem.” Dickerson explains, “This is more than just a senior project. We are working to create a prototype we can use for everyone: adults and children alike. The goal is to have a basic limb that can be customized for the person and their particular problem.”

Many physical challenges have uniqueness and there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. What they do is to work with students on campus, specifically, Purdue Engineering senior design, to develop new solutions. Once developed, Adapt-IF takes it in-house and makes the custom solution more of a global one so that it can be readily customizable for others with a similar disability. “This has been an unbelievable effort on the part of this student team,” says Dickerson

“Here, at Purdue, you have all these extraordinary resources—students, professors, technology, labs, and so on. All the technology you would ever need,” Dickerson says. “Purdue’s professors bring the core structure of knowledge and experience, and they share that with our students who in turn work to make this all happen.”