QL+ Engineering Students from Cal Poly were challenged to design and create “soft socket shorties” for an Army Veteran named Jeremy. “Soft Socket Shorties” are a slipper or minimalist running shoe-like product for bilateral above knee amputees. QL+ Challenger Jeremy has been on nine deployments overseas. After safely returning from deployment, Jeremy was hit by a drunk driver in his driveway while loading his truck for a fishing trip. The accident caused him to lose both his legs above the knee and part of his right hand.
Despite his injuries, Jeremy is very active. His hobbies include competing in triathlons, hand cycling, fishing from the shore, and fishing from a boat. Currently, Jeremy uses a carbon fiber socket and has tried silicone liners and sockets to make them softer and more comfortable. Carbon fiber sockets are lightweight and sturdy. However, users experience discomfort after extended use due to their rigid surface. Silicon liners and socks help alleviate this problem, but they tend to roll or slide off and trap heat and sweat. This is particularly problematic because amputees have less body surface area for natural cooling, so the residuals tend to overheat. Many current sockets chafe the skin of the residual limb because of how they are attached to the body.
The goal of this project was to design a reliable, convenient, comfortable, lightweight, stable, and breathable soft socket “shorty” for the challenger to wear out for activities, such as walking, biking, swimming, boating, and resting, or after a long day wearing carbon fiber prosthetic sockets. Specifically, Jeremy hopes to use these shorties for the activities that he currently enjoys doing such as swimming, hand cycling, and boating. It was decided that the design of the prostheses needs to be short and joint-less to meet the stated objectives.
The team sent two prototypes to Jeremy for testing. The first prototype was too large since the original measurements during the molding process did not take into account the liners that he uses with his carbon fiber sockets. His feedback regarding the first prototype guided the modifications made to the second prototype. The second prototype was well-received by Jeremy and was a substantial improvement from the first prototype. With the second prototype, he was able to engage in the activities for which they were intended. For future iterations, we would suggest adding a tread to the bottom of the socket, similar to the tread of the bottom of a running shoe, to provide more traction as he uses it on different terrain.
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