First-year Engineering Courses

The ENG1001 Biomechanics Design Module introduces first-year engineering students to the design of the knee joint for a prosthetic limb. Within this module, students construct and test a prototype prosthetic leg  test and analyze their data, and interpret their experimental results. ENG1001 Prosthetic Leg Design Project Handout

ENG1001 student during initial construction of prosthetic leg.

K-12 Outreach

Our greatest success with this project has been through the Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs. Students have about five – one hour sessions to build and test the artificial leg. The first day of the session, students were given PVC piping for the “bones” of the leg and  introduced to the design project and to the safety requirements of the laboratory.  The students (10-12 per session) made measurements of their knee joints to determine the average range of motion before beginning design sketches.  Students started rough sketches of their set-up and tried to decide which materials would work best. Day two was a field trip to a local hardware store for students to chose their knee joint material.  Some of the design materials chosen by the students in both weeks included smaller paint rollers for the knee joint, a ball-and-hinge system utilizing a toilet float and a cut out 2-Liter pop bottle, hinges and screws, clear hose, zip ties, and bungee cords. Days three – five were devoted to construction, redesign, and testing. Students tested their designs by first making sure the range of motion of their knees was within the normal human range of motion. They measured the force generated by a kicking motion using a force plate, and the functionality of the leg by kicking a soccer ball off a stand.

Women in Engineering Summer Youth group with their prosthetic legs.

We also adapted the biomechanics module for use by the Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers group. The Mind Trekkers organization is a student organization at Michigan Tech that travels the country sharing over 100 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) demonstrations with students and their families. All of the demonstrations are 3-5 minutes long, hands on, and exciting. For this project, the lesson plan included having students test a pre-manufactured leg to see how the joint worked and how effective the kicking motion was.  Our Mind Trekkers lesson plan focused on the knee and how it worked. Students measured the range of motion of the leg and compared it with their own using a goniometer. An example STEM concept that students could learn from this activity was that more force can be generated with a larger range of motion. In this case, students could move the leg back at increasing angles and kick a ball with more force into a tower of cups.

K-12 Students interacting with the premanufactured prosthetic leg to see how it will kick.

If you are an educator interested in these specific activities, please contact Ms. Amber Kemppainen (

Figure 4. Women In Engineering (WIE) prosthetic limb designs

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