Students at Vance-Granville Community College’s Franklin County Campus recently enjoyed a fun, investigative activity designed to explore the interactions of electrophysiology, robotics and prosthetic engineering.
Erin Bingham, Director of Programming for the Raleigh-based North Carolina BioNetwork, which is part of the N.C. Community College System, visited the campus to conduct the innovative activity alongside VGCC Biology Instructor Stewart Lyon for students in Lyon’s Anatomy and Physiology I (BIO 168) class.
The exercise allowed students to investigate how the human nervous system controls the muscular system to create movements, the engineering challenges involved in the design of artificial limbs known as prosthetics, and the future of prosthetic engineering, including neural control of robotic artificial limbs.
Student activities included controlling a robotic claw with their own nervous system impulses measured and recorded by a “spiker box” — a device that measures and records brain activity — and medical electrode pads. The VGCC students also conducted a reaction time experiment and electrically manipulated the movements of a living cockroach known as the “Robo-Roach” by utilizing electrodes attached to its antennae. The activity concluded with student teams engineering a prosthetic leg from household and craft materials, encouraging students to consider the challenges associated with creating an artificial limb that provides both free movements and physical stability.
The BioNetwork was established in 2004 through grant funding, and is supported through a combination of grant and state funding. Among the many functions of the BioNetwork is “STEM Engagement” with community colleges and K-12 schools. The BioNetwork has created outreach programs that include classroom visits, faculty training workshops, and career fairs to connect bioscience industry skills with students at various levels of education. BioNetwork also provides high-quality economic and workforce development for the biotechnology and life science industries across North Carolina.
VGCC is one of the partnering colleges in the BioNetwork and offers both a two-year degree in Bioprocess Technology and a one-semester “BioWork” Process Technician training course. For more information, contact Stewart Lyon at 252-738-3632.
Above: From left, VGCC students Michelle Harris-Evans of Youngsville and Elizabeth Kenney of Raleigh examine the so-called “Robo-Roach,” a live cockroach that has small electrodes attached to its antenna to provide sensory information to the cockroach from a handheld device and ultimately control its movements. Erin Bingham of BioNetwork holds the roach in the biotech lab on VGCC’s Franklin County Campus.
Above: VGCC student Matthew Reynolds of Louisburg tries out the prosthetic limb his team designed and constructed in the classroom exercise.
Above: VGCC student Abiral Hamal of Louisburg (left) uses his own neural impulses to control a robotic claw to grasp various objects in an exercise conducted by BioNetwork representative Erin Bingham in the biotech lab on VGCC’s Franklin County Campus.