How to Become a Bionics Engineer – Bionics in Real Life Brings Hope to Amputees

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Updated November 15, 2017

Technology has given us the ability to overcome disease, famine, and tragedy like never before. A plague that would have killed millions of people in the 1600s now may only end the lives of a dozen people today. Technology has brought new found fancies to our lives. Technology has also complicated our lives in many other frivolous ways, but none the less technology has brought a great deal of convenience to many peoples lives.

It can occasionally be overwhelming to me when I see people using a device 20x more powerful than the first computer ever built to play angry birds or post cat videos on Facebook, but that is the beauty of free enterprise. Putting the best technology into the hands of the people and allowing them to use it in the manner they desire.

This made me think. How can technology help people in need of physical redemption?

Wounded war veterans, terrorism victims, and birth defections. How can these tragic cases be turned into victorious testimonies of technological advancements. According to a research article done by Dr. Grant McGimpsey and Terry C. Bradford there are roughly 189,000 amputees every single year in the U.S. and currently 1.9 million citizens living with amputated limbs.

During the Boston Marathon Patrick and Kensky Downes lost their legs in the terrorist bombing. Newly married, active, and excited about life’s opportunities the Downes had no idea that morning would be the last time they would use their legs to carry them through the streets of Boston.

CAMBRIDGE, MA – OCTOBER 6: Boston Marathon bombing survivors Patrick Downes and Jess Kensky, his wife, walk the two-mile route around Fresh Pond with their service dog Rescue in Cambridge, Mass., on Oct. 6, 2015. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe)

Think about it. Something you use every day, without a thought. Your legs are an intricate part of your human anatomy, can you imagine if they were no longer there? I cannot fathom being without my legs. The idea is so foreign to me, so vague. What Kensky and Patrick must go through to become “whole” again (partially whole) is the most cumbersome process of trial and error.

Three-and-a-half years after the attacks, Kensky has spent so much time in surgical wards that she doesn’t bother counting how many surgeries she’s had. “For me, it’s not been helpful. I feel like with the numbers, it wouldn’t summarize this journey,” says Kensky. “The answer I give is that it’s been three-and-a-half years and I have them on a regular basis.”

Quote from People Magazine Online

Everyday Kensky and Patrick are struggling with testing new mechanical limbs, technologies, and extensive invasive surgeries. What if there were a better solution to all of their pain, unsuccessful limb testing and surgeries…

Over the past decade we have seen the development of telecommunications, clean energy solutions, and artificial intelligence to name a handful of Silicone Valley’s mind babies.

But what about Kensky and Patrick? Where are the developments for bionics and artificial limbs. There is all of this development in robotics but has any of this made it into the human bionics sector? There is one man making incredible developments in the area of Bionics, Hugh Herr. Hugh is an amputee himself, with a passion for the outdoors. He lost his in a winter climbing expedition due to extreme frost bite, but that has never stopped him from pursuing his love for the outdoors.

Hugh herr rock climbing as an amputee

Over the years Hugh has continued to advance technology in the sector of artificial limbs. Recently he gave a Ted Talk about the current advancements being made and they are truly incredible. You can watch his talk below:

It is evident that incredible advancements are being made in the area of Human Bionics, but there is still so much that needs to be accomplished.

When it comes to a career in Bionics it is so much more than a salary. Although there can be great income potential ranging from $75k – $150k and beyond, the ability to help people like the Kensky and Patrick Downes is more satisfying than any amount of money the world can give to you.

Now that you have a little back ground on the need for bionics let’s talk about how you can start training to become the next bionics engineer!

 

1 ) Introduction to Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

introduction to biology from edx.org

If you are brand new to the field of science you are going to want to get started with a class on the Introduction to Biology. If you are up to speed on all of the life sciences than you can jump ahead, but maybe you need to brush up on your knowledge. Don’t skimp out on the basics!

 

2 ) Robotics: Locomotion Engineering from Pennsylvania University

robotic human arm

This may sound odd. Why would I learn how to build robotics…I am trying to develop a solution for humans. Consider the previous video featuring Hugh Herr. He was utilizing robotics technology to create artificial legs that were responsive to his movements. This is essential to innovating limbs that will not only fill in the void of missing limbs, but create life like response and usability.

 

3 ) Power Electronics Specialization from the University of Colorado Boulder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 2030, 80% of all electrical energy will be processed by power electronics. Professional advantages continue to grow for technical engineers who understand the fundamental principles and technical requirements of modern power conversion systems. This specialization covers design-oriented analysis, modeling and simulation techniques leading to practical engineering of high-performance power electronics systems.

Not only will you be ready to equip bionics with highly functional electronics systems but you will have a competitive edge on an expanding market. Power electronics is gives you the ability to know how a vast majority of the products you use every single day operate and receive their power.

 

 

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