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A final term project for Therapist Assistant Diploma (TAD) students turned out to be a gripping example of learning.
When second-year students Tenley Csolle and Zoe Dack were paired up to work together on their TAD capstone (or final term) project, the duo quickly agreed they wanted to develop something that would help quadriplegics.
“I was looking at how to help an artist or someone who wanted to paint and hold a paint brush. I like to draw and paint. I was thinking: if I had a spinal cord injury, how could I improve the technology that’s out there?” explains Dack.
“My first thought was there has to be a better way to help someone with a spinal cord injury. Big bulky items are invasive and difficult to use. We thought we would come up with something that didn’t look like an assisted device,” says Csolle.
Nothing fits the hand better than a glove, so the pair set out to build the “T-Glove,” or a special fabric glove that helps an individual increase their grip strength while grasping an object. For those physiologically inclined, the glove would assist the “tenodesis grasp,” or extension of the wrist, which helps with grasp.
Now that the TAD duo had a concept in mind for the T-Glove, they weren’t sure how to make it a reality – and that’s when the project took an interdisciplinary turn.
Csolle approached her friend, Spencer Bell, who is in his second year of mechanical engineering at UBC Okanagan’s Applied Science program. He came up with the idea of adding high-tension cords that would help the person close their hand.
The T-Glove has low-friction cords attached to the tips of the fingers of a glove and run down the length of the hand, mimicking the natural pull of tendons in the fingers. The thumb has its own cord, which keeps it away from the rest of the fingers and in the position needed to grasp objects. Special pads were applied to the tips of fingers, thumb and palm to also increase friction, helping the individual hold on to what they have grasped.
Bell reproduced the idea in 3D computer assisted design software, and after iterating a few changes with the Therapist Assistant Diploma students, was able to 3D print a plastic device that would provide tension control.
“We came across some printing issues because as the components get smaller, it gets more difficult and complex,” Bell offers.
When they were going to put the glove together, they realized none of them have expert skills in sewing. They purchased a work glove from Rona, carefully adding the cords, grips and pulley device, and adjusted along the way.
The trio were able to complete a functioning prototype, although the pandemic response prevented them from being able to test it on the individual who came to the TAD class to discuss life with spinal cord injury.
“It was a short timeline to finish the product, but there are lots of things we’d like to expand on,” Csolle says. “This is a great thing to have in the portfolio and maybe come back to a few years down the road.”
Both agree that the capstone project component added a lot of value to the program.
“It makes you use the perspective of, ‘How can I help them?’ Understanding what individuals go through with spinal injury or stroke recovery helps you understand the deeper level of the problems they are dealing with,” Dack says.
Darrell Skinner, the TAD Instructor who helps facilitate the Capstone project, described “I particularly liked this project as it involved collaboration between health, art and technology. I am constantly impressed by the dedication and the innovation that the Therapist Assistant students demonstrate on their Capstone projects.”