Micky Pun

Engineering student Micky Pun with prize-winning prototype.

Student engineers win ALS society design award

June 26, 2008

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A team of SFU engineering science students has won a $2,500 design competition prize from the ALS Society of B.C. for their prototype of a portable speech-enhancing device to assist patients suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive, usually fatal neuromuscular disease.

Fifth-year students Micky Pun, Richard Tang, Caroline Chen and Jeramy Wu, known collectively as the SFU VChoice Team, won the award of distinction for their low-cost device, which they designed to be integrated with the respiratory mask worn by ALS patients.

ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, attacks the motor neurons that transmit electrical impulses from the brain to the voluntary muscles in the body. When the muscles fail to receive messages they lose strength, atrophy and die. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is three to five years.

The VChoice team’s device works like a mini microphone to amplify the voice, improve clarity and comprehension and eliminate background noises from the patient’s respiratory machine while avoiding uncomfortable physical contact between the microphone and the user.

Team member Caroline Chen says their prototype still needs some refinements but the group has no plans to develop it further for now.
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