Valor Students win National STEM Competition

In a national STEM competition, Valor students Nicolette Jamison (pictured left), Claire Kim, (pictured right) and CJ Mote (not pictured) took first place, announced last week, for their design of special functionality in a prosthetic hand. The BrainCo Neuromaker Challenge is designed to help students investigate the connections between Biomedical Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Programming and more.

This challenge called on students to address potential problems that amputees have to mitigate in their daily lives. Enter the Valor trio of CJ, Claire and Nicolette. After ideating on potential problems and solutions, they focused on making two points of human connection possible again for amputees – cell phones and games. 

Each member of the trio brought unique ideas and passions to help shape the direction of the project. For Nicolette, biomedical engineering feels like a calling. “When I was a freshman in high school, I knew I wanted to be an engineer,” she says. “When I realized I could build prosthetics, I knew what I wanted to do in life. Voicing my dream to Mr. Russon made this (Neuromaker Challenge) happen.” 

CJ and Claire’s involvement seemed like a natural fit as well, as they expressed interest in using their enthusiasm for learning and engineering to help others. After brainstorming, the group found that many simple tasks become exponentially more difficult for people who lack one or both of their hands. “We wanted to fix an issue that amputees face daily. Since everyone needs to be able to use a phone in this digital age, we decided to go for that,” explained CJ.

Though their original plan was to create a hand that could hold a phone and swipe the screen using its thumb, limitations to touchscreen functionality and thumb mobility forced them to pivot. As a result, the final product can stably hold a mobile phone while allowing an opposing hand to navigate the screen. 

Throughout the project, the group learned about electronics, programming, coding, and perhaps most importantly, problem-solving. STEM program director Rick Russon believes that no matter what field of study students enter into in college and beyond, building their muscles of curiosity and perseverance will serve them well.  “Students have been told all their lives what to learn; STEM is the opportunity to determine what they want to learn, investigate and create,” he said.


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