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UMASS Students Help 5-Year-Old with Rare Condition

robo boyAMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) – A group project at UMASS Amherst proved that problem solving skills and hands-on learning can make a difference. In fact, after students heard about a Northampton boy who can’t bend his arms, they went to work and created a device to help.

“Yeah, you take the food and put it up one,” said Karen Wade, mother of five-year-old Ryan Wade.

Ryan was feeding himself an afternoon snack, a task he never before could accomplish on his own. But this time, he used his brand new robotic arm.

“Now I can eat with this arm,” he said.

Ryan is one of a thousand in the country with a condition called “Radio Humeral Fusion.” It means he can’t bend his arms at all.

“[It] makes basic skills like eating, brushing his teeth, and washing his face very difficult,” said Frank Sup, a Mechanical Engineer Professor at UMASS.

A group of five UMASS students created the orthotic device during a semester-long project. They met with Ryan and his family to understand his disability and learn the challenges faced on a day-to-day basis.

“We take mechanical engineering students and pair them with nursing students and connect them with real world problems,” said Sup.

This robotic arm was designed and created at a new aim innovation shop at UMASS. Little did the students know that before graduation they would change a life.

“It gave them motivation when things got tough, meeting with Ryan seeing the smiles,” said Sup.

The device is additional support for Ryan to be independent. Nothing holds him back; he can eat, draw, dance and do everything with his peers. He’s proud of his mechanical arm and all of his abilities.

Ryan’s condition cannot be corrected by surgery and his entire family is thankful for the work of the students under the director of Professor Frank Sup.

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