Kelsey Weisberg, Michael Kirbitz, Oliver Darzi, and Justin DeSousa; Grand Blanc, MI
Second Place, Grades 4-8
Crutches: $50 Walker: $100 Wheelchair: $500 The ability to move around as freely as a healthy person: PRICELESS! Immobility in everyday life is a major problem to a healthy individual. One solution to immobility is a manufactured exoskeleton. Inspired by insects, created by engineers, the problem of immobility is solved with this new creation. A manufactured exoskeleton is simply a skeleton on the outside of the body. It provides support, increases mobility, and supplements natural muscles. Some people cannot get around because of weak muscles, bones, and joints. With additional power being provided by the exoskeleton, they are able to walk, run, and even play sports. Complete mobility is restored through a very comfortable plastic suit. Our exoskeleton helps support and move the user. A comfortable plastic outer layer supports backs, arms, legs, and all of their joints. Artificial muscles in the suit assist movement. To control artificial muscles the exoskeleton comes equipped with pressure sensors placed at all joints. Power for the system is provided by a MEMS (Micro Electronic Mechanical System)generator. Exoskeletons are cases for limbs that give support and strength. They are made of a sturdy lightweight polymer and synthetic spider silks. Use of silk enhances flexibility and comfort of the exoskeleton. Since there are seven different kinds of "spider" silk, the right combination of silks are mixed and matched to form a strong, long-lasting material. Due to limited availability of natural spider silk, synthetic "spider" silk is produced. Artificial muscles for the exoskeleton are made of the same synthetic "spider" silk as the rest of the suit. Artificial muscles react by receiving electrical signals. They move the limb with limited use of the already existing muscle. Pressure sensors near joints accompany existing limbs and are used to control muscles. Sensors are located on top of a tight sleeve and under the protective surface of the exoskeleton's plastic casing. When the person's muscle attempts to move, the pressure sensor picks up the strength of the movement and assists by sending an electrical signal to the artificial muscles, which react to get the job done. The MEMS generator is a complex, miniature, heat engine small enough to fit onto the head of a penny. In this case, it converts body heat into usable electricity. These generators are made of the same equipment and by the same process as computer chips. MEMS generators require no maintenance. The cost of a MEMS generator is no greater than other power generating equipment. Taking the lead engineering role in the development of the exoskeleton was our biomedical engineer. Her background in mechanical and electrical engineering and interest in the human body were necessary for the mobility design and use of the MEMS generators and controls. The manufactured exoskeleton will be a great addition to the lives of future users. So, when someone in the year 2020 asks you how much your exoskeleton costs, simply tell them . . . it's PRICELESS!