Creative Fabrication

Students work together to mold designs for assistive technologies

Creative Fabrication, a cross-disciplinary class, pairs mechatronics engineering and art students together to make assistive technologies. An ergonomic cell phone holder, an umbrella attachment for a wheelchair, a customized arm brace, and a prosthetic limb for a cat – these are just a few of the designs and prototypes emerging from this collaborative class at UNC Asheville.

In this class, Corey Pullium, a junior majoring in mechatronics, partnered with art major Jeb Hedgecock, also a junior. With two other members, the team created a prosthetic hand using soft robotics.

Pulliam created a soft gripper; Hedgecock made sure the design was functional and beautiful. Another team member designed the new product logo. Each team member came to the class with very different points of view, and they not only created a very cool product, they learned about team work, listening and collaboration.

For Emily Beall, a junior sculpture major, and Ian Arlen, a junior mechatronics major, the assignment took the form of an all-terrain cane. The claw-like foot helps users navigate a variety of surfaces, something essential for the Asheville area. The pair drew their inspiration from the landscape and from friends who mentioned the need.

“They said it would be nice to have something to help them get outside,” says Arlen. “Their cane or walker worked on streets and sidewalks, but they wanted something with real maneuverability and to gain traction on broken ground.”

The idea gained traction when they settle on the design of an eagle claw. Beall often draws from animal forms, but the functional ability was another consideration.

“It’s been interesting to see a more logical point of view,” she says. “I’ll think something feels right; he’ll say it makes sense logically. It’s interesting to merge the two schools of thought.”