Entrepreneurial interns develop device to help those living with joint pain

23 July 2015

A team of five students on a one year internship programme with the University of Sheffield's Medical Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Medical AMRC) have developed a device to help those suffering with joint pain and stiffness in their hands.

The ContraWear Hand & Wrist is the first of its kind; a portable, wearable medical device which uses contrast therapy in order to help alleviate pain, stiffness and inflammation in the joints and muscles.

Useful for people who live with conditions such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sports injuries and older people with more general aches and pains; contrast therapy consists of alternating applications of heat and cold to treat pain associated with these conditions.

The medical interns (from l-r), Aqsa Ahmed, Adam Wilson, Callum Mulligan, Philip Mulvey and Syed Hammad with their newly finished prototype of the ContraWear Hand & Wrist 

The team consists of three engineering students, Adam Wilson, Callum Mulligan and Syed Hammad, forensic accountancy student Aqsa Ahmed and Philip Mulvey, a business studies student. They were tasked with running medical products organisation, Next Generation Medical for one year and creating ideas for innovative products where there was an area of need in the healthcare market.

Callum Mulligan, who took on the role as Project Manager for the group, said: "Without the full operation of your hands, your quality of life can be severely affected, just doing things like brushing your teeth can become very difficult.

"During our research we discovered you can use contrast therapy and potentially massage therapy to treat joint pain and stiffness. We applied our technical knowledge to look at how a device would implement those methods.

"What we came up with was a portable device that can be used at home or at work, that alleviates joint pain and stiffness by heating and cooling the hands in a way which is easy and convenient for the user."

Medical AMRC staff will be assessing ContraWear Hand & Wrist to take it forward into production, and soon next year's new interns will be developing two new products.

Speaking about what he has gained over his year on the Medical AMRC programme, electronics engineering student Adam Wilson said: "Being the electronics designer for the device, I've been able to use a lot of different software and expand my skills further than I would with learning at university.

"I have been able to collaborate with AMRC experts from all different groups and that has allowed me to experience many different areas of engineering; it opens your eyes to what you can do."

Callum Mulligan added: "You get experience you just wouldn't get studying an academic qualification alone. We've had the opportunity to use the machinery in the workshop and just working with the other interns is a real eye opener.

"Phil is our marketing intern and Aqsa is our financial intern, so I've been able to sit down with them and see how we would operate as a business.

"I've gained a real insight into the entrepreneurial aspects of applying my engineering experience to a real-life situation, creating a saleable product and viable business plan."

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