Courtesy of Pankaj Singh, Ph. D. ’17

Orthofit team members show a device aimed at reducing instances of wrist injury.

April 16, 2018

Student Led Startup Utilizes Technology to Help Combat Workplace Injuries

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In 2016, three Cornell students, Apoorva Kiran, Ph.D. ’17, Pankaj Singh, Ph.D. ’17 and Jason Guss, Ph.D. ’18 embarked on a technical journey to tackle prevalent injuries in workspaces.

The group found that their Ph.D. programs in mechanical and biomedical engineering required abundant amounts of time on computers. The frequent hand movements that were thus necessary, soon resulted in the buildup of pain within their wrists. It was then that Kiran, after finding various biomedical technologies for back pain and slouching, came up with the idea of creating a similar technology that targeted wrists — with the hope being that the device would vibrate when the hand was placed in an injurious position.

With this idea, Orthofit was born and the three co-founders worked towards creating a glove that would be able to provide the functionality of informing users when their wrists were in harmful positions.

In the summer of 2016, the Orthofit team applied to Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a startup space in downtown Ithaca run by a partnership between the Tompkins-Cortland Community, Cornell University, and Ithaca College. Rev helps young businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs by creating different kinds of workshops along with a variety of events to help those interested in entrepreneurship.

For Singh, the workspace has proved instrumental in helping the team develop their prototype.
“Rev has helped in saving money, giving feedback, meeting people, and finding team members. It has been such a huge help and has played a really big role in the success of Orthofit” he said.

The hope for the glove initially began as a remedy for pain, particularly for students who often spent their time employed in front of computer screens, typing various documents.

After applying to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency that works to ensure that working conditions for men and women are both healthy and safe, the team was encouraged to reach out to the food industry, where they hoped their technology could be useful for reducing the number of injuries within the workplace. Redirecting their focus, the group now hopes to employ the biomedical glove to the food and meat processing industry, where the risk of acquiring carpal tunnel is extremely high. Many workers within the food industry, particularly in meat processing plants, are often standing for eight hours a day cutting pieces of chicken in a repetitive motion.

“Many of these workers cut about 25 pieces of chicken every minute, with their hands moving in the same position about 10,000 times a day” said Singh. “This motion repeated multiple times every week is the perfect recipe for getting carpal tunnel. Once a person has this syndrome, they are impaired for life, as even with surgery there is a 50 percent relapse rate.”

Moving forward with Orthofit, the team, now comprised of Ph.D., graduate, and undergraduate students, hopes to continue to reach out to companies and further their partnerships with various food processing industries.

As of now, Orthofit seeks to test the product locally within the Ithaca community, having already made arrangements with the Cornell library. The library, whose workers must often stack books, use computers and go through paperwork, make prime candidates for the use of this technology. Within upstate New York, the group soon plans to also test the glove in a meat processing plant located in Rochester, NY and a medical device facility in Buffalo, NY, all within 2018.