Engineering Student Earns Scholarship, Begins Custom Prosthetic Design
National Park College (NPC) Engineering student, Ben Scarbrough was selected to receive
the Elisabeth Wagner Math and Science Scholarship this semester in the amount of $500.
He was nominated by instructor Darlene Gentles. “Diligence, initiative and altruism are qualities found in Ben Scarbrough that make him outstanding among engineering students,” said Gentles. Gentles said he can be found in the engineering study room daily either with fellow students or working diligently on his own to master the content.
Inspired by his own struggles with expensive and poor fitting prosthetics, Scarbrough hopes to use his degree to design affordable, custom prosthetics and disability aids. He was born with campomelic dysplasia, a rare disorder that affects the skeletal system. He uses prosthetic legs for mobility, but says quality prosthetics are too costly for most people.
“They are so expensive, and I don’t think they should be that expensive. Because of my experience with prosthetics, I believe I can probably make them cheaper and be able to pass that on to people so they can have the newer technology,” he said. He explained that prosthetics with sensors and ankle movement can cost more than $100,000. “I believe I could build that at a cheaper rate so people who aren’t exactly wealthy could still be able to enjoy that.”
Scarbrough is currently working to design custom prosthetic arms that will allow him to participate in welding classes. He took the initiative to seek design input from staff at the Innovative Technologies Center to refine his design and has inquired about a grant for help funding the prototype. He worked with Industrial Technology faculty to clarify the mechanics needed to make the prosthetic electrically functional.
“He has built, with his outgoing personality, a team of resources supporting his project. Many engineering students choose the profession due to its high demand, high wage outcome. Ben is designing an advanced prosthetic at an affordable price, and that is a level of altruism that many beginning engineering students take years to develop,” added Gentles.
After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, Scarbrough said he made a series of poor choices before going back to earn his GED. “I messed up a lot in my earlier life,” he said. “I saw that I still had it, as far as my intelligence and being able to do this stuff and it inspired me to be better instead of the person I was.”
Scarbrough chose NPC because it was close to home and affordable. He said his experience overall has been very positive and has helped to boost his confidence to further his education. He said that since he began classes, it has “re-sparked [his] passion” for learning. “I love the teachers. They have all been very helpful and they all seem to really care about my success.” After graduation, he plans to transfer to the University of Arkansas Little Rock to complete his bachelor’s degree.