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Clarkson University Team Receives Grant for Electrolarynx Research
A team of Clarkson faculty and student researchers is developing a cost-effective way to give a voice to the voiceless.
Janine Amell ’13 and Professors Byron Erath, Laurel Kuxhaus and Kevin Fite have received a $5,000 grant from the Academic Success Program to Improve Retention and Education (ASPIRE) to create a modified electrolarynx. The project is also one of six finalists in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2013 Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices.
For decades, individuals whose larynx was removed due to cancer or other diseases have used the handheld medical device to restore speech. When pressed against the neck, the vibrating electrolarynx serves as a substitute for the surgically removed vocal folds, acoustically exciting the vocal tract.
But the average electrolarynx typically costs between $500 and $700 and is too expensive for much of the global population, according to Erath, an assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering whose research focuses on the aerodynamics of speech. The team is trying to design a more reasonably priced alternative while also improving the sound quality and ease of use of the electrolarynx.
“To me, it comes down to trying to improve a person’s quality of life,” Erath said. “We’d like to keep the cost low enough that it would be distributed worldwide.”
The research is being conducted by a five-member senior class design team of mechanical engineering majors, including Amell from Schenectady, N.Y.; Robert Griffin from Hyde Park, N.Y.; Madison Malfa of Airmont, N.Y.; Allen Osaheni from Clifton Park, N.Y.; and Chris Nycz of Walkill, N.Y. The $5,000 is allowing Amell to stay at Clarkson through the summer to further develop the device.
“It’s a nice way to generate a little more support than would otherwise be available for a senior design project,” said Fite, an associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering.
“This is a really unique opportunity for Janine to make a second generation prototype,” added Kuxhaus, Amell’s advisor and an assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering.
As one of six national finalists, the team will present its research the 2013 ASME Summer Bioengineering Conference, June 26-29 in Sun River, Ore.
Amell said the experience has proven invaluable as she prepares for a career in biomedical engineering. She has seen first-hand how engineering can improve someone’s life; her father lost half of his leg in a 2007 motorcycle accident and a prosthetic device has since improved his mobility.
“It’s something exciting that it could go places,” Amell said of the research project. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction for getting experience for graduate school.”
Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.
Photo caption: A team of Clarkson University student and faculty researchers, including Janine Amell ’13 (front) and Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Professors Kevin Fite, Laurel Kuxhaus and Byron Erathhave received a $5,000 grant to create a modified electrolarynx.
[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/ASPIRE-2013.jpg .]