By Makenzie O'Keefe

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4)– A team of students at Colorado School of Mines earned some big honors at a hardware-based “hack-a-thon.” In only 24 hours, they created a device prototype that allows someone who is paralyzed, to move their wheelchair by detecting brain activity.

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“We set out with a blank sheet of people and went and designed each of our components,” explained Peter Wilson, a junior on the team.

The team was given 24 hours to create a device with only the material provided at the competition.

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“It’s definitely a marathon,” explained Parker Steen, one of the students. “It’s a rollercoaster going up and down just struggling with things and finding solutions.”

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The group of engineering students wanted their design to be something that solved a problem in our community. After a conversation with a friend, they decided to help people who have been paralyzed from the neck down.

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“The brain still works but the body doesn’t,” student Josh Rands said. “So tech can fill that gap and make them able to move.”

The team used infrared lights and receivers to track brain activity, specifically where blood concentrations are found in the brain. Changes in brain activity would be turned into forward movement of a wheelchair, while an accelero-meter that detects head tilting would control turning.

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To start, the team used a 3D printer to create a headband that held the emitters and detectors. Next, they built a model wheelchair and developed the code on a computer that translates the data from the headband into movement.

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“This shows where we are getting signals from Pete’s brain,” one student showed on the computer.

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After completion, the team earned the MakeHarvard Originals award at the event for their device.

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“It was a really great feeling to be able to accomplish something like that in just 24 hours,” Wilson said.

(credit: CBS)

Makenzie O'Keefe

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