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Project Lead The Way Students Design Orthotics

start to finish: orthotics design A group of Sycamore students just got a hands-on lesson in engineering by designing footwear for young patients with cerebral palsy.

Students in the Project Lead the Way program at Sycamore Junior High designed ankle foot orthotics to help pediatric patients with cerebral palsy improve their mobility.

Working in teams of four, the seventh and eighth graders had two days to come up with a design and then build a prototype out of everyday materials in the classroom.

“We used a lot of materials: cardboard, foam padding, duct tape, lots of duct tape,” said Madison Boni, an eighth grader. “We also drilled through popsicle sticks to hold the joints together.”

There were several requirements for the project: the orthosis had to allow the patient upward movement of the ankle but prevent them from pointing or rising up on their toes. It also had to support the foot and ankle, while allowing the patient to put their foot flat on the floor.

“We had to design a device for a patient with cerebral palsy who walks on their toes,” said Claire Atkinson, an eighth grader. “So we had to make sure it could bend down but not bend up while being durable and comfortable.”

Some of the students ran into difficulties while designing and building their orthotics. But teacher Justin Dean pointed out that it is all a part of the learning process.

“It gives students a chance to apply their knowledge towards real world problems and come up with unique solutions,” said Dean. “It helps them decide even before high school if this is something they might be interested in doing as a career.”

Later this year, students will design a toy for cerebral palsy patients to help improve their ability to grip.

Project Lead the way delivers STEAM education through project-, activity-, and problem-based curriculum.