Nearly 2 million Americans have had an arm or leg amputated, and those numbers continue to grow as wounded servicemen and women return home. It takes time to adjust to a prosthetic limb. But a team of engineers and medical experts is widening the options for women.Twenty-one-year-old Alexandra Capellini is an active college senior. She’s in flats on the sloping campus walkways, but loves the look of high heels. As she sees it, “most of what women like to wear when you’re going out or even adjusting to seasons.” Alexandra lost her leg above the right knee to bone cancer at age seven. Adjusting her prosthetic limb is second nature.
Now mechanical engineers and medical experts are designing a new foot for female amputees. “The highest prosthetics go is zero to two inches. We wanted to make one that goes zero to four. One of the biggest challenges we faced was having to mimic the ball of the foot. Whenever you stand in a high heel condition it’s different than standing in a flat foot condition, so a lot of weight is shifted. The big toe is what keeps you from falling forward,” explained Joey Tilson a mechanical engineering student at John Hopkins University
The foot holds position with an ankle lever. The goal: a quick adjustment, so a woman could wear heels to a party and kick them off to dance. “You don’t get out a screwdriver to adjust your feet usually when you adjust your shoes,” said Nathan Scott, Ph.D., also a mechanical engineering student at Johns Hopkins University. Alexandra loves the concept, but also the attention it brings to those living without limbs. “I think the bigger picture is emphasizing options for female amputees,” she said.
The prosthetic foot is made from a carbon fiber, and weighs about a pound and a half. The mechanical engineering students designed it as part of their final senior project. It’s in the early stages, but it may be able to adapt up to four inches in height.
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