Jerlena's Badmonton Device

By Sina Valizadeh | September 9, 2022

AICP is committed to advocating and innovating in the field of children’s prosthetics. On Labour Day weekend, we organized a golf fundraiser to help raise funds for our operations and to spread awareness on the issues faced by many children who require prosthetic and assistive devices. You can read a detailed account of our fundraiser on our blog. We also took the opportunity to deliver some device prototypes to Jerlena; she tested two devices and gave her feedback, which we will use to iterate on the designs and to improve the devices.

Jerlena Rittwage is a resident of Cochrane, Alberta, a town close to Calgary, and is 15 years old. Jerlena was born with an underdeveloped left hand and has experienced numerous issues with the standard prosthetic devices she’s received through the Canadian healthcare system. On the days where I worked with Jerlena in person, she was not wearing her prosthetic (similar to the one in the image below); the issues cited were discomfort and limited functionality.

Image Source

Image Source

In my experiences speaking to prosthetic device users, these issues are commonly cited amongst individuals who wear traditional upper-limb prosthetics. The prosthetic devices individuals receive through the healthcare system are fit properly and according to the individual’s residual limb by means of a professional prosthetist. However, although the prosthetic fits properly, the device can be too heavy for some to wear throughout the day and, in Jerlena’s case, she chooses not to wear it. Moreover, the function of the split-hook prosthetic (see image above) is limited to an opening-and-closing motion. While this works for some individuals, many other users, including Jerlena, express that they would like their devices to do more, or, enable them to do more.

One activity Jerlena wants to engage in is badminton. Currently, it is hard for her to serve the birdie because she relies on her right hand for both dropping the birdie and swinging the racket. Therefore, she asked if we could create a device to help her drop the birdie using her left hand, keeping her right hand free to swing the racket and serve. I designed two devices that achieve this task, assembled prototypes of both, and had her test both and give feedback.

Device A (CAD image; birdie not shown)

Device A (CAD image; birdie not shown)

Device B (CAD image; birdie, strap, springs not shown)

Device B (CAD image; birdie, strap, springs not shown)

Device A operates by loading the birdie and pushing the lever to release the birdie, allowing it to freefall. Device B operates with a spring-loaded mechanism that pops the birdie out of the device rather than allowing it the freefall. Both devices utilize Velcro straps to secure the device onto her left arm. After testing both, Jerlena gave feedback which will help me design the next prototype for her to test. She had an easier time using Device A to serve the birdie and it allowed her to pick up the birdie without using her right hand. Device B was more intuitive, but less comfortable and harder to use for serving because the path of the birdie is harder to predict (once released) compared to Device A. Once the new prototypes are completed, we can test again and receive additional feedback, which leads to newer designs and prototypes, then further iterating until she is completely happy with the final device