31 May 2010

Teens turn Wii remote into physical therapy tool

BY LESLIE BIXLER • Staff writer • May 13, 2010

Andrew Nichelson, a student at Ross High School, and Tiffin Columbian students Seth Sholl and Cody Semer came up with the idea as a senior project for the Tech Center's Computer Communications Network Technician program.

"We modified a Wii mote and turned it into a mouse," Sholl said, adding that they added Velcro straps to secure it to a person's wrist.

Originally, the teens thought to create a variant of a data glove used for gaming. But they turned it into a medical device after talking to Sholl's father, a physical therapist. Sholl said it ended up being more convenient and less expensive to go that route.

Semer said they connect the Wii remote to a computer through Bluetooth signals. The signals are emulated as mouse movements on the screen. He said the program is almost like a game, but tests a person's movement capabilities.

"We're hoping people can use this at home, and the program could send information to an occupational therapist," Semer said.

This would help people with cerebral palsy and people who have had a stroke, the students said. It could also help slow down muscular sclerosis.

"We incorporated three dimensions with the project to test depth perception and ataxic cerebral palsy," Sholl said.

Semer said the project is still not complete.

"We had the project done for state (competition), but we're thinking about taking it further," he said.

They worked with Floyd Collins, their instructor; Terry Ritchie, another instructor; an instructor at Terra Community College; and an occupational therapist at Bellevue Hospital.

They also credit fellow students for help.

"They worked very hard on this project, and we came into the school on weekends while other students where home relaxing and enjoying the weekend," Collins said. "The biggest hurdle for the team was overcoming their fears of presenting the project to the judges.

"They learned more from this project than can be taught from books or the classroom. They learned what it is to be a team and working for a common goal, relying on each other's strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. I am very proud of each of them, and I hope they take what they learned from this and keep going."

Last month, the teens went to Columbus for a business and technology competition and took third place for their project.

They were the first team from the Tech Center in the Tech Prep Showcase in March at Terra Community College.

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