East Texas Students Helping Kenyans Abroad - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/24/05-Longview

East Texas Students Helping Kenyans Abroad

Joseph and Kristin Gait Training: Photo from LeTourneau University Joseph and Kristin Gait Training: Photo from LeTourneau University
Joseph's Leg: Photo from LeTourneau University Joseph's Leg: Photo from LeTourneau University
Dr. Roger Gonzalez and Caleb reviewing Lamination: Photo from LeTourneau University Dr. Roger Gonzalez and Caleb reviewing Lamination: Photo from LeTourneau University
Devante Cox Devante Cox

They are five students, engineering majors at LeTourneau University in Longview. Each has been hand-picked for a project, that will change the lives of amputees in Kenya. It's spear-headed by Biomedical Engineering Professor Dr. Roger Gonzalez.

 "How can we take the technology that exists in the United States, reverse engineer the cost out of it and be able to apply it in our particular arena". This is exactly what we're trying to do with this prosthetic," says Dr. Gonzalez. The team is called "LeTourneau Engineering Global Solutions", or more appropriately "L.E.G.S."

They are creating a cost-effective, lower-extremity prosthetic and taking it all the way to the country of Kenya, where a common form of transportation is by foot and people live in such extreme poverty they can't afford a $30,000 prosthetic limb. But a prosthetic made by L.E.G.S. will be a fraction of that: a mere $250. "It basically can be made using four different major tools. A vacuum, a drill press, a band saw and then a dremel tool," says David Eaton, in charge of Design and Communications for the L.E.G.S. team and a senior Mechanical Engineering major at LeTourneau. To make the prosthetic takes months of research.

The students test their low-cost prosthetic on the campus of LeTourneau on local amputees. We attended a gait session with 12-year-old Devante Cox. "We're going compare his current U.S. prosthetic with our prosthetic design and it lets me look at the way he's walking and I can compare the three scenarios looking at his stride length, how quickly he's walking, his cadence," says Kristin Ness, Project Manager for the L.E.G.S. team and a senior Bio-Engineering major at LeTourneau. Devante was born without a tibia and knee cap in his right leg. He was just 10 months old when his leg was amputated from the knee down. He's never had the luxury of walking on his own two feet. But his mother, Terry, says his involvement in this project still puts him a step ahead. "We don't know anyone in Africa but my son's going have friends there. Maybe one day him and one of those kids can invent a leg that's going be perfect for someone. That's why were so blessed to have this opportunity--truly blessed. Somebody's going be helped," says Terry Lilly tearfully.

The team is set to fly across the globe to see if hours of research, creating, and testing will pay off by helping others in need. "What we're hoping to see is someone go from nothing, to a full prosthetic and walking independently... in 4 days. And we're gonna do that with 15 individuals in 2 weeks... that's quite ambitious," says Dr. Gonzalez.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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