Cedarville mechanical engineering students with Jaclyn Barker, a ten-year-old Beavercreek girl who needed a new prosthetic arm with which to play the violin
Photo Credit: Carrie L. Savage/Cedarville University
by Public Relations Office
May 12, 2003
Cedarville, Ohio - Eight Cedarville mechanical engineering students have designed two prosthetic arms for Jaclyn Barker so she can advance in her violin playing. Barker, a ten-year-old girl from Beavercreek, was born missing her right forearm. "Her elbow functions normally, but the two bones in her forearm are fused together below her elbow," said her father, Ken Barker. Barker began playing the violin about two and a half years ago using a prosthetic arm. However, as her playing advanced, she needed to have better control over moving the bow and keeping it correctly positioned on the strings. The problem "needed an engineering solution," said her father.
The Barkers attend church with Tom Wailes, a former Cedarville University engineering professor. Wailes was the first person to suggest the project to Cedarville's Elmer W. Engstrom's Department of Engineering.
Eventually two teams of four mechanical engineering students began designing two different models of prosthetic arms. Each student logged about 15 hours a week on the project. They also enlisted the help of Katie Roy, who is a junior violin performance major from Ottawa, Ill., and concertmaster of the Cedarville University Orchestra. Over the past year, the teams watched Roy play, studying her arm and wrist movement. She practiced with a prosthetic arm they designed for her and gave them feedback about the device. Roy also worked with Barker, helping her to get used to playing with her new arms.
Roy commented that it was amazing to watch the process the engineering students went through, especially as they designed the part to mimic the wrist action of a violinist. "They were trying to replicate what God has already perfected," she said.
The teams also worked with John Brandt, a certified prosthetist who has worked in the field for 14 years. "I found it fascinating how they came up with the ingenuity of the bow design," he said. "There is not much available for upper extremities. We need more engineers to come up with ideas like this."
The students found the process to be both challenging and rewarding. "This project had an actual person involved. It was neat to help her, yet there were many variables that we had to deal with," said Aaron Roth, a senior mechanical engineering student from Cape Girardeau, Mo.
"It was very rewarding to have a face to go with an engineering project. Interfacing with a human body is much more difficult that other projects," said Matthew Bozzuto, a senior mechanical engineering student from Pen Argyl, Pa.
Jay Kinsinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Cedarville, said, "the human element made this project unique. They were directly impacting the quality of someone's life with this project."
The two teams presented Barker with the two prosthetic arms on Thursday, May 8 at Cedarville University. Family and friends gathered to watch Barker play the violin with each of the new arms. Barker will eventually decide which one to use once she has had time to practice with them.
"This is a unique thing, not many people are doing this," said Barker's father. "These guys are my heroes."