JAY — Spruce Mountain High School freshman Bryan Riley of Jay, who was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, hasn’t been able to walk for several years. On Thursday, Bryan had a chance to test the prototype for the JACO2 assistive robotic arm.

The JACO2, made by Kinova, a company based in Montreal, has been marketed since 2010 and is helping individuals worldwide.

High school students in the robotics program at Spruce Mountain watched Bryan use the JACO2 arm and learned more about the device.

Kinova representative Laurie Paquet informed the students that the device is named for Jacques Forest, a Canadian inventor and one of Kinova President Charles Deguire’s three uncles, all of whom have muscular dystrophy and are unable to move their upper bodies.

Forest created his first wheelchair-mounted robotic arm in the early 1990s. His inspiration led to the development of the JACO2.

The JACO2 gives those with limited upper-body movement a way to perform tasks without assistance. Objects can be retrieved from almost any angle because of the six degrees of motion built into the device. The arm features two fingers and a thumb that are coated with rubber and able to pick up a raw egg without breaking it.

The arm, constructed of strong carbon fibers, is operated using a wheelchair power controller. 

A software program provides diagnostic tools should a problem arise with the device.

After just 15 minutes of practice, Bryan was able to move the arm in many different directions and pick up a large cube and a tiny block, which were created by a 3-D printer. He was even able to hold a microphone. 

Teacher Rob Taylor said Bryan has been using a green stick with a rubber tip to open the wheelchair-accessible doors separating the high school and the middle school. Bryan passes from one building to the other daily to meet with Taylor and other mentor students in the Lego League program.

Taylor said the JACO2 is probably a “significant improvement in technology.”

Lego League students also had a chance to observe Bryan using the JACO2 and ask questions.

Student Daniel Nolan asked if the arm could shake hands with someone, and Bryan demonstrated that it was capable of doing so.

Another student asked if writing with the device was possible. Paquet said that a user in Switzerland paints with it, but that writing might be more challenging.

Bryan’s mom, Tina Riley, spoke of social media efforts to raise funds to purchase a JACO2 for Bryan. A Crowdrise fundraising website, www.crowdrise.com/BryanRiley/fundraiser, gives information about Bryan and the JACO2 arm, as well as ways to donate to the cause. 

A Hat Day fundraiser raised over $100. A spaghetti supper and raffle will be held Feb. 28 at the school.

To date, almost $5,000 of the $40,000 needed has been raised.

Tina said Bryan isn’t used to doing a lot of things, but he is very resourceful. But he hasn’t yet stopped to consider what the JACO2 will allow him to do.

“Bryan doesn’t dwell on what he can’t do, but once he starts experimenting, he’ll see it will open up more possibilities,” she said.


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