- Associated Press - Sunday, May 14, 2017

DETROIT (AP) - When Katy Olesnavage was a little girl, she was fascinated by her mom’s work as a physical therapist.

The 27-year-old Ferndale High graduate learned early on about the challenges people face when they lose a limb and about navigating the world in a wheelchair or on crutches.

“When I was in elementary school she would come to our school and give lectures and demonstrations,” Olesnavage said of her mom, Dr. Sue Talley. Taking a cue from her mother, Olesnavage went one step further.

The Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/2q3z47h ) reports that she has invented an optimized prosthetic foot and is working with a company in India (Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti, or BMVSS) to produce high-performance, mass-producible, low-cost feet to help the 5 million people in India living with lower limb amputations.

“The technology has come a long way,” Olesnavage said. “It’s always about trying to find the right product for the right person.

“What my invention does is design a method to specifically replicate activities for that individual that’s really active. We also look at other people who are really active who haven’t had any amputations and make a foot that best replicates the way people walk … and restore as much of that functionality as possible.”

As part of her research, she looks at questions like whether women walk differently than men and therefore require a different type of performance from prosthetic feet.

For her efforts Olesnavage was recently awarded $15,000 from the Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Student Prize program.

“I kind of stumbled onto this project while I was in grad school where they were looking to design a prosthetic foot,” she said. “It was tied into a lot of things I grew up with.”

She will be done with her doctoral program in mechanical engineering this summer and upon graduation will move to Los Angeles, where she will continue her work with aerospace manufacturer SpaceX.

“It’s amazing, we’re really proud of her,” said Talley. “She has worked really hard, and this is an awesome honor she has earned.

“Very early on she has been really curious about how things worked. She was excited to find and pursue challenges. She was 6 or 7 when she got interested in the Titanic. She gathered as much information as she could. She even wrote the Royal Titanic Society in Britain to find out more information. She was always curious. She never met a challenge that she didn’t get excited about.”

Olesnavage enrolled in college math and physics courses while still in high school and joined the robotics team at Ferndale High.

She said her teacher, Tom Maes, helped her get through honors geometry while just in the eighth grade.

Olesnavage graduated from Ferndale High in 2007 and started her college career at Carnegie Mellon University. She transferred to prestigious MIT in 2009.

“It definitely helped me with getting accepted into MIT,” said Olesnavage. “Having been able to take the initiative to move through classes at my own pace. I think MIT really liked seeing that.”

Maes isn’t surprised by Olesnavage’s success.

“She’s pretty amazing,” said Maes, the school’s math curriculum coordinator. “She was obviously academically gifted. I was amazed and overly impressed with her empathy for others. … She wants to help people with whom she has little inherent connection with in India, to help make the world a better place.”

___

Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide