Central student reaches semis in national space design competition


Central York’s Patrick O’Neill, 16, was named one of ten finalists for 3-D printing design in ASME Foundation/NASA contest.

A Central York student who started a prosthetic club for children in need has reached the semifinals of a NASA design competition that may land his design permanently etched on the International Space Station (ISS).

Out of hundreds of submissions, Patrick O’Neill, 16, is one of 10 students age 13 to 19 from across the country who have reached the semifinals in the “Two for the Crew” challenge, a competition organized by Future Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Foundation and NASA.

Students are challenged to design a multi-use tool that combines two instruments currently used by crews at the ISS.

The winning design earns a lucky student a trip to Washington, D.C., for a VIP experience on space exploration, a 3-D printer for their school or library, and they get their design printed in the ISS Advanced Manufacturing Facility.

‘Exciting’: Patrick’s design, the “Crescent Moon,” combines an adjustable crescent wrench with a textured plier, a design he said he came up with after researching the ISS toolbox.

“It’s definitely an honor being in this stage alone, but it’s definitely exciting to move on to the (next) stage,” he said.

Patrick spent three months perfecting the design and estimated he created more than 15 versions of Crescent Moon with his 3-D printer at home before creating the final working version submitted to the judges.

He credited his teacher Dianna Guise for applying for the competition and his former drafting and CAD teacher Sean Blasetti for introducing him to the software used to design the tool.

Blasetti said while he currently doesn’t have Patrick in class, he sees him often since the Central York Junior stops into his classroom during the “flex” study hall period to use the design software

“Patrick has always been one — you can see it in his eyes — (who) gets it quickly,” Blasetti said.

“He’s always setting his own goals, (and) I think he deserves to win.”

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“Like all of our Future Engineers participants, Patrick’s creativity and technical skills merged together beautifully to not just create a 3D print, but to innovate a new way that astronauts may manufacture and use future tools in space,” said Future Engineering CEO Deanne Bell in a statement.

“We admire his ingenuity and I wish Patrick and all of the semifinalists the best of luck in the next round.”

e-NABLE: During his freshman year of high school, Patrick was trying to get involved in a club at his mother Nancy’s behest but couldn’t find any that interested him.

Ever since Patrick could pick up a toy, he’s gravitated toward objects that were connected, whether it was a Lego brick or a computer program where he could create something out of scratch, Nancy said.

Ultimately, Patrick decided to create his own club, e-NABLE, to design and produce prosthetic hands for children around the world.

The club has about 15 members and is aiming to produce 50 prosthetic hands this year, double the amount the club produced last year.

Currently, the group produces all of the prosthetic arms using Patrick’s personal 3-D printer, but he hopes to win the “Two for the Crew” competition to leave a 3D printer at Central so the club can continue after he graduates.

While he hopes to go all the way, in some ways, Patrick already feels like he won.

“It’s great to see that when you work hard at something you get (recognized this way),” Patrick said.

“It’s an awesome feeling.”

What’s next: Patrick now moves on to the next round where four students in his age group will be the final four candidates for judges to consider.

The four finalists in each age group will be announced on Feb. 19, followed by the winners announcement on March 14.

Click here to view Patrick’s “Crescent Moon” design.

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Case Western origami TWISTER mechanism reaches new 3D printing possibilities

The intelligent design of origami models continues to inspire new developments in 3D printing. At Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio, a team of researchers led by assistant professor Kiju Lee have created the TWIsted TowEr Robot (TWISTER) mechanism.

Based on the twisted tower originally designed by Mihoko Tachibana, the mechanism is inspiring the creation of soft robotic arms and all-terrain exploration vehicles.

TWISTER origami actuated robotic arm. Clip via CWRUTWISTER origami actuated robotic arm. Clip via CWRU

Paper and plastic

The appeal of the age-old art of paper folding is in the versatility it brings to minimal materials. By correctly folding a single sheet of paper, artists can create solid objects that move, but that can also be disassembled to their original state. The same is true when working with other materials, such as polymers.

Twisted tower origami paper designs. Photo via sphere360 on InstructablesTwisted tower origami paper designs. Photo via sphere360 on Instructables

TWISTED robots

The Lee team’s TWISTER mechanism follows a composition of polygons and other geometric shapes, culminating in a tower that can bend freely in all directions. It is a multimaterial design, 3D printed on a Stratasys Objet350 Connex3 in VeroClear and TangoBlackPlus resins for respective rigid and flexible parts.

A base component of the origami TWISTER. CLip via CWRUA base component of the origami TWISTER. CLip via CWRU

With added electronics (powered by Raspberry Pi) the team has used TWISTER to make a soft robotic arm capable of gently handling objects such as eggs and fruit. Because of its unique design, the arm absorbs excessive force by flexing in response. The soft materials also mean the now patent-pending design could be added to assembly lines in place of other more rigid, and often enclosed, robotic arms. As Lee explains to CWRU daily “TWISTER is very different from rigid body robots […] Because this robot can be made with soft materials it could be safe to use on an assembly line right next to people.”

To infinity and beyond

TWISTER was first demonstrated by CWRU as a worm-like all terrain robot. Toward the future, the Lee team is looking to use shape memory alloys to realise the TWISTER design.

Leader researcher Kiju Lee at CWRU. Photo by Russell LeeLeader researcher Kiju Lee at CWRU. Photo by Russell Lee

Shrinking it down to a microscopic scale is another possibility for medical use, and Lee even sees potential for off-world application, “To put anything into space,” she adds “volume and weight are critical, because of the cost of rocket transport. This robot is fully collapsible and, compared to a rigid arm, light and compact.”

The TWISTER project is supported by two papers recently presented at the 2017 NASA/ESA Conference on Adaptive Hardware and Systems (AHS) and the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. Supporting Lee in the research are Yanzhou Wang, Evan Vander Hoff, Donghwa Jeong and Tao Liu.

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Featured image shows Case Western Reserve University’s 3D printed TWISTER arm. Photo by Russell Lee/CWRU