Victoria Hand Project

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    A huge boost for the project that will change people’s lives while enhancing learning for students see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy
    Photograph by: Darren Stone

    A $1-million injection of funding will allow the UVic-based Victoria Hand Project, which manufactures low-cost prosthetics for the developing world, to expand and develop a new low-cost project for communities in North America.

    The project, which has been using 3-D printers to manufacture low-cost prosthetic hands since 2015, has received a large grant from the TD Ready Challenge.

    The money will allow Victoria Hand Project to develop custom-fit, low-cost scoliosis braces and low-cost prosthetics for amputees in underserved communities in Canada and the U.S.

    It’s a huge boost for the project that will change people’s lives while enhancing learning for students at the University of Victoria, said Nick Dechev, executive director of the project and acting chair of the university’s department of mechanical engineering.

    “Our mission is to help the most under-served people in North America and remote communities,” he said.

    The money comes from the TD Ready Challenge, an annual North American initiative that offers $1 million in grants to fund innovative solutions for problem sectors.

    This year’s challenge offered as many as 10 $1-million grants to help improve access to early detection and intervention for diseases.

    The funding will go a long way to expand the scoliosis-brace project Dechev and his team started working on in 2016. Dechev said they saw an opportunity to manufacture braces to help correct curvature of the spine, using the same 3-D printing process they use for prosthetic limbs.

    “About three per cent of kids anywhere in the world have scoliosis, and of those, 10 per cent need bracing. That means three per 1,000 kids in Canada and the U.S. have backs that are crooked to the extent they need corrective braces,” he said, noting the cost of bracing is not covered in Canada.

    “And in the U.S., it’s worse, unless you’re insured.”

    The cost of a brace can be up to $5,000, while the 3-D printed version can be made for about $150 in materials, though it would have a retail cost of about $1,000.

    Chief operating officer Michael Peirone said the grant money will cover setting up seven print centres across North America and the initial printing of 200 prosthetic hands and 160 scoliosis braces.

    “Once these print centres are set up, they can continue to print braces beyond the funding of the grant,” he said.

    The funding will also allow them to print custom-fitted prosthetic limbs for underserved people in North America. The cost of a 3-D printed limb is about $100, compared to non 3-D limbs that can range from $2,500 to $10,000, depending on their customization and the material used.

    Dechev said students stand to win with the new funding. “It means a lot of learning opportunities,” he said, noting teams of students and designers have devoted well over 12,000 hours to honing the design of the prosthetic limbs alone. “This means we can engage with a lot more students and it gets them some real-life experience.”

    Over the last two years, the Victoria Hand Project has manufactured 130 prosthetic limbs for people around the world. They now have partners in seven countries, including Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, Egypt, Cambodia, Uganda and Nepal.

    The project, funded by UVic with a series of grants — they won a $250,000 Impact Challenge grant from Google in 2017, for example — sets teams up in each of the countries with the technology to scan, print and fit people with prosthetics.

    “Cost is everything to us — the cheaper you can make it, the wider the reach,” said Dechev, adding that in many of these countries, $20 is hard for most people to come up with, let alone $300 — the retail price of a 3-D printed prosthetic. “This is a charity … the reality is the people we are serving have next to nothing.”

    Peirone said seeing the final result — someone who has been without a hand actually getting to use one for the first time — is hard to describe.

    “When you go to some of these countries, when you work with some of these people and see how their lives are changed and how happy they are, it’s very rewarding,” he said.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    A group of UVic engineers is working with 3-D printers to help children in the developing world. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Richard Watts

    UVic engineers use 3-D printing to help children overseas

    A group of UVic engineers is working with 3-D printers to help children in the developing world.

    The bio-medical engineers use the printers to fashion corrective devices and braces to treat clubfoot and scoliosis, curvature of the spine. They will begin in Nepal.

    The group has been awarded a $100,000 seed grant, one of 20 across Canada. The federal government’s Grand Challenges Canada announced $2 million in grants on Monday.

    UVic team member Nick Dechev said the two orthotic conditions are no more common in developing countries than in Canada. But a visitor to the developing world is likely to notice adults and children with disabling deformities of their feet and bent spines.

    Most people with the two conditions don’t receive the inexpensive and simple corrective measures in childhood.

    “In Western countries, it is relatively rare to see an adult with a clubfoot,” said Dechev. “But if you go to the developing world, it’s not uncommon to see adults with their feet rotated outwards at 90 degrees.”

    With scoliosis, in countries such as Canada, children whose spines begin to curve are often treated with corrective braces. These are worn for a few years until bones stop growing.

    Dechev said his team believes that for less than $50 worth of plastic and printer time, effective treatment devices can be fashioned to assist a child overseas with either of the two deformities.

    That’s to make immobilizing foot platforms and braces worn by infants and toddlers to treat clubfoot, and plastic girdles worn by children, ages six to eight, for scoliosis.

    Dechev is part of the Victoria Hand Project, an already successful entry into assisting people in the developing world using 3-D printers. It has deployed scanners and 3-D printers to fashion customized prosthetic hands in Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Cambodia and Egypt.

    The Victoria Hand Project partners with existing clinics overseas where it sets up a 3-D printer and scanner. It trains locals to use the machines to fashion customized prosthetics. Including the cost of materials and local wages, the cost of a prosthetic hand is about $300.

    That same device in the developed world runs about $3,000, largely due to higher wages.

    Dechev said it’s expected the latest move to treat clubfoot and scoliosis will piggyback on the Victoria Hand Project. That group has already installed printers and scanners and trained technicians.

    “Eventually, it’s expected the Victoria Hand Project will inherit the orthotic technology and deploy it,” he said.

    The latest research grant will be used to test the effectiveness of the 3-D-printed, plastic orthotic braces.

    To do this, the research will initially see 12 scoliosis children fitted and treated, along with 24 clubfoot cases. They will be monitored by clinicians for two to three years.

    Dechev said part of the grant funding will be kept on hand so people can step in and fit standard braces if the plastic ones start to go wrong.

    “It’s not just thrown over the wall to people,” he said. “There is a process of two to three years of follow-up to make sure everything is going well.”

    Grand Challenges Canada was started in 2010 as an independent, non-profit agency funded by Global Affairs Canada. Its mandate is to assist with new ideas in areas of women’s and children’s health in low or middle-income counties.

    Since it began, 470 ideas have received funding. Of those, 60 per cent arose from the developing countries themselves and 40 per cent arose in Canada. All Canadian ventures must partner with local people to qualify.

    Liam Brown, spokesman for Grand Challenges Canada, said 20 per cent of ideas funded so far have entered a phase where they are ready to scale up to a point where they will have a significant impact by 2030.

    That’s a rate significantly higher than similar venture-capital initiatives.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    The Victoria Hand Project started using 3-D printers to build low-cost customized prosthetic hands.. see more

    Source: Vancouver Sun

    B.C. non-profit's affordable 3-D printed prosthetics in the running for $750,000 prize

    [Vote for them here!]

    A B.C. non-profit society that makes three dimensional printed prosthetics for amputees in developing countries is one of the finalists for a Google grant worth $750,000. 

    The Victoria Hand Project started using 3-D printers to build low-cost customized prosthetic hands less than three years ago. Since then, it has fitted 70 people in Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Cambodia and Egypt who would otherwise go without. The project operates out of a biomedical design lab at the University of Victoria.

    “If we win, we can expand into at least five new countries, and we can build hands for 750 people free of charge to them,” said Michael Peirone, a project designer and recent biomedical engineering grad. “Getting picked out of hundreds of projects in Canada, and by a company like Google, it’s pretty exciting.” 

    The prosthesis was designed in the 1990s by University of Victoria professor Dr. Nikolai Dechev when he was still a master’s student at the University of Toronto. It languished on a shelf for close to two decades because it was too expensive to produce. Then, in 2013, a mechanical engineering student named Josh Coutts came up with the idea of using 3-D printers to build the device. 

    The Victoria Hand Project partners with clinics in impoverished communities to set up a print centre with a 3-D printer, a 3-D scanner, and other supplies and equipment. It trains local technicians to use the machines, which print out a custom socket and prosthetic made of a bioplastic called PLA, or polylactic acid. The hand has an adaptive grasp and movable thumb and is activated by a shoulder harness. 

    The cost, which includes prosthetists and technicians, is about $300, a fraction of the usual $2,000 to $3,000 cost of a conventional prosthetic. Peirone, who has travelled to Ecuador and Nepal to set up the program, has witnessed first-hand the impact the prosthetics can have on people’s lives. 

    “In some countries, if people are missing a limb, they are ostracized from society or can’t get a job,” said Peirone. “After we give them a hand, they’re able to get a job. We have people using a pen and writing on a piece of paper again. 

    “When we work with patients and they say ‘thank you’ and their lives have changed, that’s what we do this for.” 

    The Victoria Hand Project is one of 10 finalists for the Google Impact Challenge, which will award $5 million to 10 non-profits. Judges will choose four organizations and the public will vote for one organization that will receive $750,000. Voting goes until March 28. The winners will be announced March 30 in Toronto. 

    [Vote for them here!]

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    There were robots and rockets and a talking glove, oh my! see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Michael Reid

    Around Town: Geeking out at Discover Tectoria

    There were robots and rockets and a talking glove, oh my!

    It wasn’t just super-cool technological crowd-pleasers like these that made Discover Tectoria, the high-tech showcase that packed them into Crystal Garden on Friday, such a blast.

    As one visitor remarked, almost as impressive as the high-tech doodads was that there were so many We’re Hiring signs displayed by dozens of local technology companies that participated.

    While this family-friendly event did to some extent have the feel of a hiring fair, it was a predominantly educational and entertaining showcase for the region’s thriving tech sector.

    “What is Tectoria, anyway?” was one question overheard from those not already in the know about the catchy moniker created by VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council) in 2011.

    To quote its playful slogan, Tectoria, the umbrella title for the capital region’s tech sector, is “home to 100 killer whales and 1,500 killer apps.”

    To describe the products and opportunites on view as mind-blowing would be putting it mildly, whether you were marvelling over the fun and games or the scientific applications.

    Popular draws included Victoria Hand Project’s low-cost 3D-printed prostheses, used in developing countries where amputees have limited access to prosthetic care.

    Another eye-catcher was Tango, the revolutionary glove designed to overcome the communications barrier between deaf and hearing individuals by using a glove equipped with sensors and a microcontroller.

    A user’s hand gestures correspond to phrases or letters that, via Bluetooth, appear on a smartphone screen in a text format that can be output as a digitized voice.

    Kamel Hamdan, Alaa Dawod and Abdul-Rahman Saleh head the development team for the University of Victoria project, working in association with Coast Capital Savings’ Innovation Centre.

    Other highlights included LimbicMedia’s interactive blinking-light installation; VRX Ventures’ massive racing simulator; and the Holografx station’s Instagram photo booth.

    “We’re creating a new prototype, our biggest screen at 49 inches,” said Anamaria Medina, a Colombia-raised electrical engineer who works at the Esquimalt-based company.

    The tech firm develops innovative holographic tools used to showcase products, services and company logos, she said.

    “We did the Instagram photo booth because this is what teenagers do now,” she said, pointing to giant hashtags and other social media tools.

    Matthew McCormack said he joined a capacity crowd for an afternoon seminar on Victoria’s video game sector in the Innovation Theatre to learn about employment opportunities.

    “I want to know how to get into the video game arts. What’s the best route to get my first job, to skip over working at the grocery store and get right to where I want to be working?” the Claremont student said.

    McCormack, an avid gamer who plays Rainbow Six, a first-person shooter, and the futuristic vehicular soccer game Rocket League, learned being a fan isn’t necessarily enough.

    “It’s a highly competitive industry. We don’t just hire you if you’re really into games,” said Eric Jordan, CEO of Codename Entertainment, with a smile.

    “You’ve got to be really good at art, or marketing, or businesss or programming, depending on what we’re hiring you for.”

    Jordan offered the crowd some pointers, including VIATEC’s Student Video Game Work Experience Program, which gives students a chance to work in a gaming studio.

    Moderator James Hursthouse of DigiBC got a few laughs when he asked if “there is something in the water here” to explain why so many tech types come to Victoria.

    “I think it’s where people want to live,” said Magda Rajkowski of Kano Apps. “It’s beautiful here, and there’s a lot of creativity.”

    Even before you entered Victoria Conference Centre, it was hard to miss UVic Centre for Aerospace Research’s sleek carbon fibre-and-fibreglass drone parked outside.

    “This is our workhorse, an aircraft designed to carry payloads, conduct research for companies or collaborators who want to test equipment,” explained operations manager Eldad Alber.

    One software developer, for example, asked the team to design wings that would be flexible based on their software designed for such a purpose.

    “Hopefully we’ll get more students interested in aerospace,” said Alber. “A master’s program for aeronautics is going to be available soon, so it would be nice to see more exposure and people applying for it.”

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Mercer swings by the Neuroeconomics Lab, the Victoria Hand Project and the Faculty of Music see more

    University of Victoria featured on Mercer Report

    Canadian comedian, television personality, political satirist and author, Rick Mercer, paid a visit to the University of Victoria on Jan 16th's "Mercer Report" episode. 

    Mercer swings by the Neuroeconomics Lab, the Victoria Hand Project and the Faculty of Music. Click below to watch the segment!