2010 Winter Paralympic Games inspire design students

March 11, 2010

Markhor, an above-knee prosthetic for rock climbers, was designed by Purdue junior Sydney Minnis. (Image provided)

Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The 2010 Winter Paralympic Games inspired a class of Purdue University students to consider how sports equipment could be improved to help athletes with disabilities.

"Whether it's a doorknob, pair of scissors, toaster oven or snowboard, industrial designers evaluate the function and style of products for improvement," says Steve Visser, professor and area representative of industrial design at Purdue. "We found the 2010 Paralympics to be a great catalyst to show our students how they can use creativity and science to improve people's lives through design while learning about working in the medical design industry."

The 2010 Paralympic Games served as inspiration for a five-week class competition that was sponsored by DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., a medical product company. Students were challenged during the fall semester to create a product that would assist Paralympic athletes in a sport that is currently not offered during the March 2010 Games. The 2010 Paralympic Winter Games are March 12-21 in Vancouver.

Firewalk, a snowboard with boot bindings that are remote controlled, was designed by Purdue junior Eric Chalko. (Image provided)

Download image

Three students received top honors from DePuy for their designs:

* Eric Chalko, a junior in industrial design from South Bend, Ind. Best presentation for Firewalk, a snowboard with boot bindings that are remote controlled.

* Sydney Minnis, a junior in industrial design from Indianapolis. Best research for Markhor, an above-knee prosthetic for rock climbers.

* Ben Rodgers, a junior in industrial design from Greenfield, Ind. Best concept for ASSIST, a device that could help dual-arm amputees attach and remove their prosthetic arms.

ASSIST, a device that could help dual-arm amputees attach and remove their prosthetic arms, was designed by Purdue junior Ben Rodgers. His design would assist athletes and non-athletes with dual prosthetics. (Image provided)

Download image

Minnis, an avid rock climber, says her design was inspired after speaking with people who either removed their prosthetic leg because it was too heavy to climb with or they turned the prosthetic foot backwards so the heel would better grip notches in a climbing wall or in rock.

"The Markhor would be created out of carbon fiber, which would be a lighter material than most prosthetics," Minnis says. "My design also has a hoof with an attachable foot. The hoof, which was inspired by mountain goats, would be user-friendly, especially with the alternative attachable foot. One climber I spoke with said his biggest problem was that he had to hike and climb with extra tools that he need to detach and turn around the foot on his current prosthetic."

The students' designs will be part of their individual portfolios and will be examples they can use when seeking internships and jobs. There are more than 100 students studying industrial design in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts, which is housed in the College of Liberal Arts.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Sources:   Steve Visser, 765-494-2295, svisser@purdue.edu

                   Sydney Minnis, sydneyminnis@gmail.com

                   Eric Chalko, echalko@purdue.edu

                   Ben Rodgers, bdrodger@purdue.edu

Related Web site:
Purdue Industrial Design

Winning teams' design posters:
Markhor

Firewalk

ASSIST