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Student’s 3D printed device provides helping hand to patients

Student with her 3D printed device.
Student’s 3D printed device provides helping hand to patients

Angela Turner’s decision to study at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) was life changing.

The Brisbane mother-of-two spent more than a decade working in personal injury insurance before entering the University’s Tertiary Preparation Program and then enrolling in a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences.

Little did she know at the time that she would go on to develop an original rehabilitation device that could change the lives of people recovering from an arm or hand injury, surgery or medical condition.

“During my classes with Professor Eliza Whiteside, I learned about 3D printed technology applications, which sparked my interest,” she said.

“I was excited about the opportunity to build my experience in the 3D space, so for my industry placement, I designed and printed a mobility device that supports the development or rehabilitation of the body's sense of wrist movement and position.”

The device works by making small, controlled movements and moving a ball around the device to improve fine motor function and limb/body awareness.

Ms Turner said those who may benefit most are people with developmental delays or reduced wrist movement, as well as stroke survivors who have lost the use of their hands.

“The device helps the patient's brain learn the sense of essential movements, such as using a key in a lock, stabilising a cup when moving it to their mouth, or being able to pick up an item,” she said.

Ms Turner said the project took about 12 weeks, including the initial development work and trials, and was developed in collaboration with UniSQ Makerspace and Toowoomba Hand Therapy.

“One of the Makerspace opportunities allowed me to work with hand therapist Jo O'Sullivan (Toowoomba Hand Therapy), who had some ideas to help her patients,” she said.

“We worked with Steph Piper and the UniSQ Makerspace 3D technology to bring the idea to life.

“Steph helped me work through the design, challenged my thinking and created a supportive environment for me to overcome all the challenges.”

Ms Turner ended up printing five devices, which are now used by clients at the Toowoomba Hand Therapy practice.

“Making this device was extremely rewarding; it’s opened my eyes to a new world,” she said.

“I feel proud that I have created something that gives people options and can help them recover from a traumatic experience.”

Keen to continue working in this space, Ms Turner, who is set to graduate from UniSQ after completing her studies in February, has launched her own company, Ittykin, making devices that address health and mobility issues.

To learn more about studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Southern Queensland.