LSU engineering students create life-changing prosthetic for Catholic High athlete
BATON ROUGE - High school senior James Robert III runs track for Catholic High. Right now, Robert spends a lot of time running and working out to ensure he is in peak condition for his 100-meter and 200-meter events.
Robert believes he’ll reach his goals with hard work and a little help from the LSU Engineering Department.
“They really have opened up a whole new world for me, and they’ve given me a new path to go down in life," Robert said. "That’s really something that can’t be replaced or undone.”
Robert was born with half of a thumb and no fingers on his left hand. Because of this, he felt separated from his peers.
“I wasn’t able to lift weights as safely or as heavily as some of my classmates were able to, and that set me behind a good bit compared to everyone else," Robert said. "That definitely was a struggle for me."
But everything changed when LSU professor and director of the Athletic Training Education program, Ray Castle, met CHS Head Athletic Trainer Eddie Breight.
“He just happened to be coming by to chat for a minute. And he heard us talking, and he asked, ‘what are you guys talking about?’ And it piqued his interest too. And that’s when everything started," Breight explained.
From there, Castle met with dynamics professor at LSU, Dr. Warren Waggenspack, to discuss the possibility of creating a prosthetic for Robert. They opened up this opportunity to engineering students in the Capstone program.
LSU engineering graduate Cecilia McAlear said she was introduced to the idea when visiting Dr. Waggenspack's office.
"He asked me about my interests, and I said prosthetics. He told me about James and some details on what we need to do from an engineering standpoint, and immediately I was intrigued,” McAlear said.
The team successfully completed the project, which has had a significant impact on Robert’s athletic performance and confidence.
"As this process has gone, you’ve seen his confidence just bloom," Breight said. "It’s been really a beautiful growth thing to watch.”
The project deeply touched not only Robert but everyone involved.
"Told several people that this is my happiest and proudest accomplishment to date, and I think that my teammates feel similarly,” McAlear said.
“I’ve been opened up to a whole new world," Robert said. "I didn’t even know that prosthetics was a thing until this team from LSU helped me. And they showed me that we really can do this.”
Upon graduation, Robert plans to attend Alabama State University where he will study biomedical engineering.
In 15 years, he hopes to create a prosthetic for disabled athletes who want to pursue football.