Prosthetic Hand Receives High Fives
Murphy students, Rakaan “Rocky” Alhaddad and Rohan Mehta, are juniors at Plano East Senior High and are both 17 years old. In June of 2017, Alhaddad and Mehta began designing a prosthetic hand that would be more cost efficient than what was currently on the market. After extensive research on the prosthesis market, specifically prosthesis accessibility in underdeveloped countries, they realized that not only was cost an inhibitor, but there is also a social stigma associated with split hook prosthesis.
They designed a body powered (not electricity or battery powered) prosthesis hand that costs $86.76 to produce. A comparable prosthesis ranges from $4,000 - $20,000 to purchase. Alhaddad and Mehta plan to reduce production costs to only $30. They say that their prosthesis is fairly easy to assemble once it has been printed on a 3-D printer. In addition to the polylactic acid (PLA) used in the 3-D printing, which is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic polymer based plastic made from corn; there are a few easy to find items used to complete the prosthesis. Common items they utilized are Velcro straps, a bike brake mechanism and backpack clips. The prosthesis weighs 12.3 ounces. (Alhaddad and Mehta thank Sean Kilmer, MakerTree 3D, for guiding them in the right material selection for the project and for providing pricing discounts.)
Vanessa Del Rosario Castellon, a Wylie resident, lost her hand and a portion of her arm when she was seven years old and living in El Salvador. During the Civil War in El Salvador, she was playing with an item she had found. She threw the item against a rock and it exploded. The item was a bomb that contained flammable liquids. Alhaddad and Mehta met Castellon and offered to make a prosthesis for her. They met with her several times to take measurements, discuss functionality and inquire about any needed modifications needed to make it less burdensome. Castellon said, “The appearance is great. When I first lost my hand they gave me a prosthesis with an upper and lower hook. I received a lot of criticism and I didn’t like it.” She has been without a prosthesis for 25 years and is used to not having one. She will not use this prosthesis for that reason. Regarding the prosthesis that Alhaddad and Mehta made for her, she said, “(It’s) Incredible! (They) are super young to come up with such a feat. In my country, young people like this spend their time on other things than helping people. I’m very appreciative of what they did. It is a huge idea. They are always on my mind. I can’t get over what they did. It might be small for them, but it is huge. These men will help more people.” She feels this prosthesis will be very beneficial to people who have just become amputees.
Alhaddad and Mehta have already made adjustments to their design based on feedback they received from Castellon. They plan to continue to make it better. They want to make the grip stronger, make it more durable and more affordable.
They placed second in the PESH science fair and first in the district science fair. They won a special cash prize award from a company at the district science fair. They also competed in the HOSA-Future Health Professionals area competition. They plan to patent their prosthesis. There will be companies present at the competitions who can potentially purchase their design.
Regarding this prosthesis, Dr. Marcos Rodriquez, HOSA teacher at PESH, said, “They have the opportunity to leave an imprint on the world. Being able to provide real affordable prosthetics to the needy and to children who have to replace it as they grow is powerful. It’s truly a game changer.”
Alhaddad’s home country is Yemen. Yemen is in a civil war. His family is surrounded by war. He said, “I don’t want people, children, going through what Vanessa did.” Mehta said his family is from India. He knows that amputees in India lose opportunities in life, they are shunned. They both say they have an emotional connection to these and similar countries and want to make changes for these people.
Regarding how people can help, Mehta said, “Volunteer, put effort towards helping.” Alhaddad said, “We forget there are people out there wondering if they will have food. How can we help? We will work for those who don’t have access to what we have.”
Alhaddad has lived in Murphy since 2006, Mehta since 2010.