Colby College recently hosted a Hackathon in which self-assigned teams of students worked on major tech creations for 36-hours together, sleeping only during periodic naps. This contest consisted of about 40 students from Colby and 40 other students from various NESCAC schools. Major tech companies were also on campus scouting for talent throughout the competition.
Colby’s team of Kyle McDonell ‘18, Jacob Young ‘20, William Wisener ‘18, and Maddie Taylor ‘20 won the hackathon by designing an open source Myoelectric Prosthetic arm. They assembled this arm over a 36-hour period using a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, servos, and a machine learning algorithm to learn hand movement patterns based on EMG (electromyography, which records/monitors electrical activity by skeletal muscles) signals.


This prosthetic arm was 3-D printed and three sensor strips were placed along the forearm in order to connect the muscular neuron firing to the movement of the prosthetic arm. An artificial intelligence neural network was used by the team in order to differentiate between when specific fingers were moved. For a test, the opening of the connected hand opened the hand of the prosthetic arm.

STS major Jacob Young ’20 was interviewed and described “participating was a wonderful experince, everyone was willing to help and talk about their project. There was one sleepless night but it payed off. Additionally, I would note that my coding ability is very limited but I was able to make significant contributions to the team nonetheless.”


This prosthetic technology can harken back to the visit by STS sponsored speaker Dana Lewis; she created an affordable “artificial pancreas” to aid those with diabetes across the globe. Innovative creations such as these allow for the human dimensions of sciences to become visible and integral in medical engineering.