Techweek19 kicked off on May 20 with ON: Futures in Tech and ON: Pitch, events aimed at encouraging more students to explore opportunities in technology and entrepreneurship.
Engineering students Sebastian Weaver and Connor Talbot took out the top prize – which includes ecentre Sprint programme membership - for their prosthetic limb solution ProstheteX.
Sebastian Weaver and Connor Talbot’s ProstheteX plan for less painful, more flexible prosthetic limbs was selected by a panel of judges to receive the top prize worth $60,000 in startup support. The prize includes membership in ecentre’s Sprint programme, office space at the B:Hive at Smales Farm, seed capital, a Microsoft prize package, public relations and digital marketing support, legal counsel and MYOB accounting software.
ON: Futures in Tech featured a line-up of New Zealand’s inspirational young leaders and entrepreneurs speaking to tertiary and secondary students from the Auckland region. The event was organised by Niesh, an alumni of ecentre’s Sprint programme for startup founders.
Talbot and Weaver said the prize – particularly access to capital and dedicated office space – will help them to move the project forward from idea stage.
ProstheteX’s artificial limbs adapt to the expansion and contraction of sockets on a person’s body, resulting in less discomfort.
Talbot brings to ProstheteX expertise in electrical engineering combined with study of animal prostheses while volunteering at the SPCA. Weaver adds knowledge in mechanical engineering.
“We cover off different skillsets,” Talbot says. “I intuitively understand the mechanical side of things; Sebastian has interned with the NZ Artificial Limb Service and understands the current limitations.”
Talbot proposed the ProstheteX project to his university supervisor after realising there was a lack of literature on the topic. “I took the framework I was going to apply to animal prosthetics and applied it to human prosthetics.”
“Almost all amputees will face an issue with their socket and the connection to the prosthetic limb. It if doesn’t fit well, it doesn’t matter how high-tech the prosthetic is: it won’t work. The fit of the socket is a huge issue,” notes Talbot.
Talbot says current designs can be limiting and inflexible because the socket part of a person’s body interfacing with the prothesis may increase or decrease up to 10 percent in volume each day.
“Lower limbs can’t take those volume changes and weight changes, so what we’re creating is prosthetics which adapt to limb swelling to reduce pressure. We’re using an algorithmic approach to determining pressure.”
ProstheteX is prototyping 3D printed sockets in cooperation with the NZ Artificial Limbs Service. Clinical trials with human patients are hoped to be underway by the end of the year.
ON: Futures in Tech and ON: Pitch were created by student discount app Niesh and sponsored by ecentre and other partners to showcase the abundance of opportunities in tech.
Niesh is a graduate of ecentre’s Sprint Launch (now Sprint Global) programme. Founded in 2015, Niesh launched its student discount app in 2017 then joined Sprint Launch in June 2018. Soon it had a customer base of over 50,000 students, has to date saved nearly $9m for students, and this year launched regular Work Skills events to connect industry professionals with students and improve graduate employment.