Freshman engineering students design prosthetic hiking foot, win first place at design expo

The Louisiana Tech University’s College of Engineering and Science is known for its integrated approach to education and research. One of those innovative programs, Living With the Lab, gives freshman Engineering students an introduction to what studying at Louisiana Tech is like.

This six-hour course sequence has students complete multiple projects throughout the year and ends with a group project where freshmen are encouraged to meet a need with a design solution. Andrew Tucker, Carter Ledbetter and Matthew English make up one group of the many participating students, and their design is named “Pro-Toe-Type.”

Pro-toe-type teamThe project focuses on designing a prosthetic leg to make hiking more accessible to amputees, as the team said they believe hiking is something everyone should have the chance to do.

“There’s nothing like hiking up a hill and looking off and seeing the beautiful sceneries,” English said. “But if you’re born without limbs or you have an amputated limb, you don’t really have the same opportunities.”

One obstacle for hikers with prosthetic legs is that the incline of hiking terrain along with the design of prosthetics can make it more difficult to access and complete trails.

“Prosthetics nowadays, they don’t really have any rotation, or much of it at all, so it’s really hard for people that have prosthetics to go hiking,” English said. “We’re trying to get it to where the angle of the foot matches the angle of the ground.”

The design project is a culmination of the programming and working with sensors that “Living With the Lab” teaches throughout the first year of Tech’s Engineering program. The program give students the opportunity to apply the fundamentals of engineering and teaches them how to work as a team.

Dr. Krystal Corbett, freshman Engineering programs coordinator, is the “Pro-Toe-Type” group’s guide for the design project. The students said having her has helped them through the creative process.

“I think that she really likes what she’s doing,” Tucker said. “And so that kind of helps out – somebody who is passionate about it and is willing to help you and wants you to succeed.”

Corbett said she encourages students to come up with any idea they want to do so that they’re passionate about it. This new generation of engineering students to have a keen interest in helping others, and she said the “Pro-Toe-Type” group is an example of that desire to make a difference.

“I think it’s a really cool project,” Corbett said. “I see a lot of students in this generation who are very much in tune with increasing the quality of life for all people and having a human touch to their engineering and their design. This group really ran with that idea.”

An expo was held recently for all of the students to showcase their design projects. An awards ceremony followed, and the “Pro-Toe-Type” design won first place overall

“I feel honored, because there were a lot of great ideas at the freshman expo, but also feel super proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished,” English said. “At first, it just seemed like an idea.

“After seeing it work, people recognizing the uniqueness of the project and receiving the award, it inspires me to solve even more problems to improve others’ lives and bring more opportunities to others.”

This story is by Communication student Madison Remrey.