Bionic arms for kids: Sami’s superpower!

WGEM News at Five
Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:27 PM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WGEM) – Call them the bionic kids! Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed bionic arms for kids who are born without. Those scientists developed a spin-off company called Limbitless Solutions and have continued to develop and improve the functions of the prosthetics. The scientists now want to know how the kids’ brains change when they take part in activities that others take for granted.

Twelve-year-old Sami Atkinson’s arm is part function, part personal fashion.

Sami was born with a condition that caused her arm to develop incompletely. Three years ago, she joined a trial being conducted by Limbitless Solutions. The scientists specialize in developing advanced, muscle-sensing technology.

“It’s [the arm] not heavy anymore because I use all my muscles.” Sami tells Ivanhoe.

The newest version of the bionic arm uses electromyography. When the muscles flex, they produce a voltage, like a battery.

Co-founder of Limbitless Solutions, Albert Manero, PhD, explains, “With the same stickers that you would use for having an EKG on your chest, we can put them on the bicep muscle. And then, when that muscle is contracted, we read that signal and send it to the computer chip that’s in the hand. And that will tell the hand to do different gestures and routines.”

Next, these researchers want to know what changes are occurring in kids who were born without limbs, but now have prosthetics that can pinch and lift.

“We’re looking at seeing if there’s any changes in the brain and the functionality,” UCF Health Sciences student, Shea McLinden, says.

Sami says in the past three years, she’s been able to help with chores at home.

“I could fold laundry; I could fold shirts. I can fold anything,” she exclaims.

The researchers say the prosthetics empower children at a time during their social development when they may need validation most.

Sami says, “Just always remember that you’re special.”

Over the past three years, the researchers have fitted 18 children with the customized prosthetics, which are 3D printed. The kids enrolled in the trial will perform tasks in a functional MRI machine so researchers can measure their brain activity.

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