Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Posts Tagged ‘make-a-thon’

Iteration Project: Make-a-thon Participation

During the week of the Iteration assignment, I opted participating in the Make-a-Thon.

My team was named “MOVI” and the goal was to design a protective guard for a prosthetic leg. Prosthetic legs are very sophisticated and are extremely valuable. Yet those products are worn at the part of our body with the most movement and thus are exposed to scratches, impact, and lots more other threats in daily life. The reference model, C-leg, cost more than $100K. It has been a pain point among users, especially the active ones. To make the matter worse, people wearing only one of these are told to fell on the prosthetic side when imbalanced. Because, falling to the other side will make it rather difficult, if not impossible, to get up by themselves.

There are some prosthetic leg covers in the market. But most of them are like the same model: a dull thick bulky black cushion covers every section of the prosthetic leg. This leads to a problem, apart from the aesthetics, the back of the prosthetic knee is an area filled with delicate moving parts. The bulky protective sleeve covers that area and makes it very difficult to bend the knee.  


Thus we got the needs of users:

  1. easy for putting it on-and-off
  2. protection against scratches
  3. cushioning of physical impact (mostly in case of a fell)
  4. not blocking knee flex
  5. good looking


Our team started the design with a 3D scanning of the prosthetic leg. The model was then printed using three 3D printers and glued together. 

For the prototype, the team proposed a solution combining a hinge in the front and straps in the back for the top need. The user reported that the phase 1 prototype lacks coverage of the leg. So we created the phase 2 prototype, just to specify the max area of protection that is necessary, considering need 2, 3 and 4. Therefore, we’ve combined the two prototype together and came up with the final design. 

The final design adopted the hinge-straps design and used a two-layer solution for protection and aesthetic needs. A hard shell with patterns is put on the outside. In the future, users should be able to customize and switch the shell for their taste or even the mood at the moment. Two pieces of cushions are fixed inside of the shell. Each cushion used a heavy fabric cover with foam pads inside. To help further protect the user, we’ve inserted a layer of sheet metal between two layers of foam pads inside the cushion. Two extra cushion pads are added to the top for knee protection. Two straps go through holes on the shell. We fixed velcro strips onto the straps. 


Our team was well-paced during the make-a-thon, and each step was well executed throughout the event. After rounds of presentations and expert review, our team got the championship of the competition. 


During the event, I helped in the 3D printing post-process, and led the efforts in the fabric department. Cleaning and gluing the PLA parts were rather easy with the training in class. But I’ve got quite some challenge in the sewing part. I was quite confident before going into it. It was not long before I recognized the challenge. The cushion pad was of an irregular shape, with five corners of varied angles. And there was a significant thickness. For solving this problem, I design the two piece of fabric of different sizes, with all the side panels included in the front piece. While sewing the corners, Duncan gave me some useful tips. Cutting off some fabric inside the corner is key to a smooth outside. I’ve got some of them right, some of them not so. 

Just when I felt a relief finished sewing the cushions, there came the straps. “It’s just an extended square, not so different from the little pouch we’ve done in class!” That thought was so wrong. The fact that we’ve chosen a waterproof rubber coated fabric and a very thin strap width made the task very challenging. Flipping the strap inside out was not far from a mission impossible. It was a combination of stick and brutal force and dedication that helped me finished those two straps.


I am very happy about the results, and the fact that our team has developed something useful in real life. 

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Makeathon Reflection – Mohammed Faiz Patangia

Participating in the Make-a-thon was a great experience, and it was fun to work on a product that would help someone. The name of my team was 3D-Balance, and we worked on creating a product that would provide additional balance to the people. We had a mentor, Jenna, who has a prosthetic leg, and because of that it is very difficult for her stand on that prosthetic leg. Prosthetic leg is not strong enough to handle wait of her body, and she also has trouble balancing herself through that leg. Also, because of that problem, she has trouble doing yoga. In yoga, balancing the body is a huge part, and because of prosthetic leg she was not able to do that. We worked on solving that problem.

For our first prototype, we designed a prosthetic leg that would provide some extra balance. The base of that redesigned prosthetic was circular and there would be a rod from that base, which would get attached to the upper part of the prosthetic. This entire product would provide additional balance, because of circular base, and to would not allow the user to have lateral motion, which would prevent user from loosing balance or falling. 

First Prototype

The problem with this prototype was that there would not be anything that would allow the user from restricting the motion. Even if there would be a slight fluctuation in the movement, the user may fall in backward or forward direction. The rod may be all the way in horizontal direction, because there is nothing that is stopping it, and user may fall. We though that we need something that would restrict the movement of the rod, and do that so that the user can control it.

For the second prototype, we worked on something that would restrict the movement of the rod. There was a lot of thought process that went into this, because the task was very challenging; we were thinking about adding the control without any electronics into the product. For this prototype, we had many different ideas and approaches, but at the end, we settled on one design. 

Different Designs

Prototype 2

In this prototype, we added some extra hinges that would get attached to the rode. We used parallelogram logic to design this prototype. This design would allow the rod to move in forward and backward direction. We added two supports to the bottom two parts of the parallelogram structure. The two supports would be made of flexible material, and the they would bend as the rod moves, and they would allow the rod to be back at the initial position; they would work like springs. The base would be the same bas from the first prototype. This design would restrict the movement of the rod, and it would prevent the user from falling. The problem with this design was that it was difficult to create the flexible material. We also started to think in a different direction. We thought that the person, with a prosthetic leg, already has a prosthetic leg, and we may not need to give them entire new leg, but just some supports to it. With prototype 2, they would need to carry the entire thing around every time, while going to gym, doing yoga, etc. For the third prototype, we thought about developing a product that would be an attachments to the existing prosthetic. 

For prototype 3, we designed a product that would attach to the prosthetic, like a sandal. We thought that if it would have a tripod kind of structure then it would give more balancing support to the leg. Our idea was that he could also this product for the elderly people, who have problem balancing themselves, most of the times in bathroom. Instead of 3D printing the design, we laser cut the wood, and then added belts to create a sandal like a structure. We also added some material at the bottom so that it creates more friction with the floor. The idea was to apply compliant mechanics to the product, so that the entire attachment could fold and unfold, when the user needs extra support. 


Final Product

Increasing friction of the base


Participating in make-a-thon was a great experience, and I learned through the process and peers. It was also great that we came up something useful, and something that would help others. I enjoyed the entire experience.

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Makeathon Blog

During our initial meeting, I met my group members when we were interviewing our mentors. I asked John about wearing a watch with limited hand mobility and he told me that he doesn’t wear a watch because it’s hard to get on. But my group was originally planning on creating a glove to help people with limited hand mobility eat, so during the presentation on Friday, we did some research and found a lot of products that had already been created. We changed gears and ended up going with the watch band idea.

Our first idea for the watch band was making it easy to get on. We used fabric and some makeshift pieces to make our first prototype, but it was hard to understand how it would work without a real watch face. I used the laser cutter a lot to print clasps that ended up being a part of our final prototype. They were simple, but they also got me extremely comfortable with the laser cutting machines and using Inkscape again.

I had someone from Autodesk help me take a 3D model of an Apple Watch and create clasps so we could attach our fabric to it. Here is a picture of the watch:

Next, we worked with some textiles and the sewing machines to create a solid band that we could attach to the 3D printed prototype. With trial and error, we ended up using a mix of faux leather, Velcro, acrylic laser cut pieces, cloth and the string with different elasticity to finish the band.

It felt good to know that we created something that helps others, and on the side, we ended up tying for first place. Our group worked well together and even though we struggled through some of the processes, we were really happy with our final product. As an example, Friday was a tough night for the makeathon because we spent hours working on the watch band idea and didn’t get very far, but when we came back on Saturday, we had fresh ideas and were ready to work. Things began to flow, and the ideas became realities. Overall, I’m glad I participated in the makeathon and I learned a lot about the making process.

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