Team Work Makes The Dream Work – Stephanie, Paola, Jackie and Jennifer

Save-A-Joint consist of 4 members, Paola E, Jackie G, Stephanie L and Jennifer M. In our biomedical pathway we are creating an elbow pad to protect the elbow joint for fellow roller derby participants. In roller derby it’s very rare for a player to injure their elbow, but accidents do happen, if a player falls and lands on their elbow hard or incorrectly, known as an acute injury, can injure the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) and the tendons that connect the elbow. The elbow joint is a hinge joint that allows free of motion of the arm such as flexion and extension. Though some roller derby participants complained about the elbow pad because it either too tight, poor ventilation, too thick, and poor protection. Save-A-Joint is a team trying to create a new and improved elbow pad that will fit customers needs, and most importantly protect the elbow.

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Photo taken by Jackie
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Paola practiced how to sew Phot taken by: Paola

Currently the team is split up in half. One half is learning how to either sew or 3D print and the other half is working on building prototypes. Creating an elbow pad takes a lot of thinking and creative ideas. Before the building process began, biomed classes visited Hancock Fabrics to explore and develop ideas on the types of materials that would best fit their device. After analyzing endless amounts of fabrics, padding, plastic and elastics the team brainstormed an idea. The base of it would be a Polyester and Spandex sleeve with padding (made of cotton and polyester) on areas such as the elbow joint, humerus, radius and ulna. On top of the padding there would be a plastic cap/pad. Getting to observe the many different fabrics and materials proved to be a rewarding/knowledgeable experience as well as helpful, beneficial, and necessary to understanding the key components of designing an effective product that meets all of the customer needs.

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The beginning of the protype Photo taken by: Jennifer

While building the prototype, customer needs were the main challenge and focus (such as comfort, protectiveness, adjustable, etc.). The first time building the prototype was a challenge because of the materials the team was working with and trying to make it realistic enough to be able to build. The team also needed to focus on what areas they wanted to protect and what customer need was to most essential. In order to not leave anything out hard plastic was added above the elbow joint and below it protecting bones such as the radius and the ulna. The focus of the first prototype was mainly joint protection and comfort. Currently we are trying to figure out the specific padding for the elbow, based on customer interviews too much padding can lead to movement restriction and discomfort. The padding in the prototype consists of spoons, cotton balls, and a cotton pad. Under the spoons in order to provide comfort, we placed cotton balls underneath them and attached them to the sleeve (sock). The team made sure to put spacing in between the spoons so movement wouldn’t be restricted. In between the spaces we put cotton so there would still be protection on other areas aside from the elbow. On top we decided on adding a cotton pad for a thicker prototype that will lessen the impact on the elbow. We found a problem with our prototype when a team member tested it by wearing the prototype on one arm and the reference product on the other. We asked her to tap her elbow onto the table to determine if the hard padding (the spoons and cotton) was protective, but the spoons spread out, exposing the elbow to only the sock (the fabric). This means we will need to pay attention to the stability of the product. We are considering a new type of material for padding, a possibility is a sponge but it can be too thick or squishy. We can also combine a sponge with some sort of hard plastic to provide both comfort and protection.

In Save-A-Joint elbow pad prototype, we took into consideration that the customers wanted more ventilation because they get sweaty and to them that’s uncomfortable when they’re  playing roller derby. So our team decided to create a hole on the mid point of our arm, the opposite side of the elbow joint, to create that part breathable. With this addition we’re hoping that the hole will provide more ventilation and increase the durability of our device.

Our team is still testing what would work best for the prototype. There is failing in order succeed. But as a group there is hope to have a protective, and comfortable elbow pad as the final product. It takes team work to make the dream work.

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