News Releases 2008

LETU Students To Provide Prosthetics In Three Countries This Summer

Fri, May 9 2008

LeTourneau University undergraduate biomedical engineering and biology students will collaborate with medical clinics in Bangladesh, Kenya and Sierra Leone this summer to fit above-knee amputees with student-designed, low-cost prosthetics featuring articulating knee joints.

The program is part of the LeTourneau Engineering Global Solutions (LEGS) project which was devised in 2004 under the direction of biomedical engineering professor Dr. Roger V. Gonzalez to use engineering to improve gait and provide hope for a better life for amputees across the globe. Project sustainability is achieved as clinicians are trained to manufacture these prosthetics themselves in their own countries.

Students will work with overseas partners at Memorial Christian Hospital in Malumghat, Bangladesh; at Bethany Crippled Children’s Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya; and at Mercy Ships’ New Steps Center in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The students will travel in teams and will be working out of country from May 9 through June 23.

“Our goal was to take first-world technology and reverse-engineer the expense out of it to produce a low-cost prosthetic that would work well in the uneven terrain of developing countries,” Gonzalez said. “LETU assistant professor Karen Rispin is taking LEGS students to Kijabe, Kenya, for six weeks to do follow-up research on patients previously fitted with LEGS prosthetics and to continue developing rehabilitation strategies for clinicians to use with their patients.”

Gonzalez and student Micah Casteel will present a seminar in Sierra Leone to train and certify prosthetists to manufacture, fit, assemble, align and distribute LEGS prosthetic knees to patients using available tools such as a table or band saw, drill press and sander. Literature on building the prosthetic, as well as materials for training clinicians to rehabilitate their patients to use the prosthetic effectively, will be provided to enable the LEGS prosthetic to be a sustainable technology after the seminar concludes.

In Kenya, students will work with prosthetists to fit six more amputees and troubleshoot repairs to LEGS prosthetics on about a dozen patients who have been wearing the LEGS knee for the past year. The team will continue to collect data on patient outcomes and refine rehabilitation techniques. Similar work will be done by students traveling to Bangladesh.

The LEGS project works to design, test and release technologies that can be easily manufactured, implemented, and maintained in conditions present in these underdeveloped countries. To accomplish this goal, designs must emphasize simplicity, robustness and ease of use. When these technologies are released, the LEGS team selects organizations already present in an area to handle implementation, thus allowing the LEGS team to continue development of new technologies.

LeTourneau University is an interdenominational Christian university of nearly 4,000 students with academic majors in engineering, aeronautical science, business, education, the liberal arts and sciences. LeTourneau also offers business and education degree programs in Austin, Bedford, Dallas, Houston and Tyler, Texas.

For more information about the LEGS project, go to the Web site at www.letu.edu/legs.