UPenn students invent revolutionary device, win international award

Nick McGill, center, Elizabeth Beattie, and Nick Parrotta, show off the Titan Arm, an upper-body exoskeleton that increases human strength. Charles Mostoller/METRO
Nick McGill, center, Elizabeth Beattie, and Nick Parrotta, show off the Titan Arm, an upper-body exoskeleton that increases human strength. Charles Mostoller/METRO

It started as a brainchild with four University of Pennsylvania students and now, it could revolutionize the medical and engineering fields.

It’s the Titan Arm, a robotic exoskeleton device that helps strengthen and rebuild muscles, and it won the foursome a 2013 James Dyson Award, making them the first U.S. group to win the honor.

Their $45,000 prize will go a long way.

“We’re eager to push it forward and do more with it,” said team member Elizabeth Beattie.

She, along with Nick McGill, Nick Parrotta and Niko Vladimirov started working on the senior design project about a year ago.

The mechanical engineering students also used their robotics and design skills to develop the prototype, which Dyson officials say costs significantly less to make than similar exoskeletons.

It didn’t take the group too long to come up with a product they were satisfied with.

“It was pretty exciting,” McGill said. “It was just a feat of engineering accomplishment. You work really hard and oftentimes you don’t get such a satisfying end product. That’s what really generated our excitement.”

The device is battery-operated, with a remote control, and attaches to a person’s arm allowing them to rehab after suffering injuries. With the money, Beattie said the group has high hopes.

“Instead of the user directly controlling the arm,” she said, “[it would be] able to sense changes in muscle activity using skin patches to measure electro signals that would activate it.”

Vladimirov, one of the group members, is working on the West Coast but is still heavily involved in the project; McGill said Vladimirov has made contacts there to better develop and market their product.

They had learned of the Dyson Award, given to young engineers and designers through the James Dyson Foundation, by one of their professors. They were chosen as recipients from 650 groups in 18 countries worldwide.

The group also credited UPenn and Penn Engineering; they had access to the machine shop, 3D printers and laser cutters to develop the Titan Arm.

Nick McGill, center, Elizabeth Beattie, and Nick Parrotta, show off the Titan Arm, an upper-body exoskeleton that increases human strength.
Nick McGill, center, Elizabeth Beattie, and Nick Parrotta, show off the Titan Arm, an upper-body exoskeleton that increases human strength.

Who can use this device?

McGill said the Titan Arm is aimed at users in physical therapy as well as occupational lifting. “We could add something of value to warehouse workers — they tun into a lot of stress and strain in their jobs.”

The group has already been contacted by interested folk.

“A woman on the West Coast suffered from an injury and now she doesn’t have the strength to hold a cast iron pan,” Beattie said. “It’s driven our ideas for the Titan Arm and how we can hone in on the systems and really design them to meet the user’s need.”

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow City Editor Christina Paciolla on Twitter: @cpaciolla

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia


FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.


Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…


Brewer celebrates Women's Equality Day with voter pledge

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer celebrated Women’s Equality Day Tuesday by pledging to register at least five women voters before the Oct. 10 deadline. Brewer…


NYPD looking for lewd D train rider

The NYPD is enlisting the public’s help to find a man they say performed a lewd act on the D train Saturday evening. The incident…


QUIZ: How many English words do you actually…

Are you as smart as you say you are? Are you a word nerd? Take this quick vocabulary test to find out if you're a true wordsmith. Good luck.


'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 12,…

If you've wondered whether Ali and Bethany knew each other, you got an answer tonight: Yes, and in a very tangled way. But many lingering…


Cymbals Eat Guitars Have Everything to 'LOSE'

At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause. When…


"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: Episode 4, 'Week Four'

Some things are hard to watch in a “Human Centipede” sort of way. Other things in an “American History X” sort of way. Does “Bachelor…


When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.


Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.


Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.


MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb


Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…


Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.


Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations

Priceline.com released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…


Working your way to type 2 diabetes: Job…

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a stressful job can be as risky for your health as a bad diet and no exercise. A…