Perth College student’s robotic arm takes hold of judges’ imagination: littleBIGidea competition

Perth College student Mia Barnes is an engineer in the making with her robotic arm, for people with|muscular dystrophy, making the final of a national competition.   Picture: Andrew Ritchie         d444149
Perth College student Mia Barnes is an engineer in the making with her robotic arm, for people with|muscular dystrophy, making the final of a national competition. Picture: Andrew Ritchie        d444149

THE idea for an invention that could help people suffering from muscular dystrophy came to 14-year-old Mia Barnes late at night.

Mia is a finalist in Origin’s littleBIGidea competition and, if successful, the Perth College student would win a trip to the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in the US.

Mia’s robotic arm entry was chosen along with Year 7 and 8 student entries demonstrating originality, creativity, practicality, imagination and innovation.

Her idea for a robotic arm would fit over existing arms and use retracting bands to facilitate movement for people with muscular dystrophy.

The wires in the bands would connect to sensors on the chest which, when fired by the brain, contract the muscles and contract the band associated with that muscle.

“My mum’s friend had muscular dystrophy and when I asked her what the worst part of it was, she said it was that she couldn’t hug her daughter,” Mia said.

“I thought there should be something we could do about it.

“I had a few ideas before that but I didn’t think they were good enough, then I came up with this idea late at night.”

Mia said when she first came up with the idea she was worried it was too far-fetched.

“But I guess they liked it,” she said.

Mia will present her idea to a judging panel and attend the national wards ceremony at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on October 6.