Western Carolina University’s new Summer Undergraduate Research Program brought faculty members together with current and future students for eight-week research projects, including one on prosthetics that could benefit medical science and help people with artificial limbs.

The project, “Correlation of Myoelectric Signals and Hand Gestures,” analyzed electrical signals produced in the arm when a person uses different hand gestures. The research team was looking for a correlation that could be used to improve commercially-available myoelectric prosthetics.

Kyle Johnson, a junior from Lenoir majoring in electrical engineering, undertook the project along with Scott Pierce, assistant professor of engineering. For two of the eight weeks, each of the nine teams of current students and faculty members were joined by Research Scholars, new freshman students who will be enrolling in WCU’s Honors College this fall semester. Hannah Grace LeMacks, a resident of Fletcher and graduate of West Henderson High School, worked with Johnson and Pierce.

The research could help create a more affordable, versatile hand prosthetic that can be attached without painful surgery. “Throughout the past two months, we’ve had our fair share of successes and drawbacks, but we managed to produce some usable datasets in the end,” Johnson said. “Analysis of the data will continue and there are discoveries yet to be made.”

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