While Emma can stand and walk on her own, she lacks the upper-body strength to do things like lift objects and draw.
(Credit: Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET)
Thanks to 3D-printed plastic appendages, 4.5-year-old Emma Lavelle now plays with blocks.
Born with a rare neuromuscular condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita that causes contracted joints and muscle weakness, Emma has almost nonexistent biceps that cannot move against gravity. Her “magic arms,” as she has dubbed them, change that.
The plastic appendages attach to a Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) developed at the Center for Orthopedics Research and Development at Delaware’s Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. The WREX is a modular body-powered upper-limb orthosis generally mounted to a wheelchair.
“The existing WREX is all metal parts and is kind of big,” Tariq Rahman, a mechanical engineer and head of pediatric engineering and research at Nemours, explains in the video below. “Emma was too small for that, so it required something light and small that would attach to her body that would go with her.”