Inspiration and Social Impact

Each year, 3 million Americans are diagnosed with scoliosis. The corrective surgery used in children with EOS (early onset scoliosis) is painful, invasive and can result in many medical complications, including psychological stress, skin problems, infection, and constant navigation of the medical system. It involves the implantation of titanium rods on either side of the spine, bracing it and correcting it by approximately 50%. As the child grows, the rods must be surgically extended biannually to keep up with the growth of the spine. This surgery is often extremely painful, and requires long periods of convalescence, which affects a child's social and educational growth. We hope to rectify these issues by eliminating the need for invasive surgeries.

What it does and Medical Impact

Initially, the doctor will implant twin rods, supporting the child's spine. Multiple flex sensors will be placed along the vertebrae to sense the growth of the spine. As the spine grows, the tension builds up along the flex sensors, causing the once loose sensors to tense and extend proportionally to bone growth. In response to the data from the sensors, a stepper motor is activated, causing one of the rods to extend itself. This elongates the rod without need for additional metal to be inserted surgically. Once the flex sensors have fully tensed themselves, a message will be sent declaring that the spine is mature, and the growing rod procedure is complete.


Currently, self-extending scoliosis rods are unavailable, our idea will allow for a painless, precise, and noninvasive way to circumvent the issue of multiple surgeries to extend the rods. Additionally, we created a shaft system to house the growing rod, which is a key part in the automation and fluidity of our system. This system is designed to allow for the attachment of an integrated radio frequency device that would allow doctors to access outputs and insert inputs to further customize the device.

How we built it

We created a spine using Lego joints. Flex sensors embedded along the spine detect the growth of the bone, sending the information to the stepper, which grows the rod at specific increments accordingly. A complex circuit regulates the entire system and interfaces the sensor with the motor. If the flex sensor senses the bone reaching maximum growth capacity, the stepper stops and the spine is considered mature.

Challenges we ran into

  • soldering iron didn't heat up
  • wiring- issues with insulation
  • physical build of rods- how to create extendability
    • this was definitely our greatest challenge
  • figuring out how to increment our stepper motor
  • combining our two main codes
  • deciding which kind of loop to use
  • learning the vocabulary of the code when integrating our sensors ## Accomplishments that we're proud of
  • breaking a DVD port to obtain stepper motor and see how the disc drawer extends (at the end of the day, that was the basis for our extendable rod)
  • using a glue stick for its extendable functions
  • making an extendable rod
  • when it all came together
  • lego power
  • we initially planned to add an ultrasonic sensor, so we wired and coded one, then we realized its function would be redundant -we attemped to code an LCD screen but as time was limited we had to focus our attention elsewhere ## What we learned anything can be used for creative functions, we took apart a disc drive to analyze its retractable area, and to extract a stepper motor. We also used a glue stick's extend-ability to attempt a growing rod. We learned to code LCDs, steppers, and flex sensors, while managing to interface all three. Of course, we also learned that teamwork and listening to our peers was essential for our project to come to fruition.

What's next for The Back Stabilitator

In the future the system would be scaled down into a wireless chip using nano-technology, the extendable rod and shaft system would be metal rather than lego, and this procedure would become the prevalent form of scoliosis surgery for kids with EOS. It would be marketed at a significantly cheaper price than the original technology, and improve people's lives worldwide, one back at a time.

Built With

  • arduino
  • lego
  • flex-sensor
  • stepper-motor
  • driver-board
  • alligator-clips
  • breadboard
  • wires
  • resistors
  • c++
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