Students work on special prosthesis for New Mexico Tech staff member

SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – A community is stepping in to help after one of their own had a life-changing accident.

A beloved staff member at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology said her life changed forever in just one second.

However, she said, the immediate response she has gotten from the tight-knit community has made it okay.

“Well, I’ve been here 17 years,” said Edie Steinhoff.

Officially, Steinhoff is known as the marketing and publications coordinator at New Mexico Tech.

But Steinhoff said, with everyone in this community, it is more like family.

That was never clearer to her than the week before Thanksgiving.

She had an accident while remodeling her home. It was the kind of debilitating accident that many fear.

“I used a table saw for the first time and, in one second, held up my hand. My life changed forever,” Steinhoff said.

She is now missing her thumb and three other fingers on her left hand.

“The things that I can’t do just surprise me. I can’t cut a piece of meat,” Steinhoff said. “I got up on the ladder with a hammer, and I couldn’t pick up the nail.”

“We’re hoping to do what we can for her,” said Ben Sears, a senior in mechanical engineering at New Mexico Tech.

Students are working on a special prosthesis for Steinhoff.

“We’ve been using electromyography, which is picking up the muscle signals on the surface of the skin and translating that into motion of her prosthetic hand,” said Chris Schmittle, a junior in mechanical engineering.

The goal is to have the first prototype by the summer.

It’s all the work of five students, volunteering their time in the lab.

“It’s about five hours a week now and, again, once we get into the summer we’ll be devoting most of our time to this,” Schmittle said.

New Mexico Tech said an anonymous donor gave about $53,000 for the research.

That is far too much for Steinhoff alone, she insisted.

“I want something simple, and I want the money to go into the lab,” she said.

Long-term, that money will help create a sophisticated, yet affordable product for those in need.

“There are highly sophisticated devices available, but they’re so expensive most people could never afford one,” said David Grow, Department of Mechanical Engineering associate professor.

Grow said, while it could take years, the research may help children who have to change prostheses often because they are still growing.

Plus, students are happy to help one of their own in the process.

“She is so sweet and even with everything that’s happened to her, she’s still… she’s very helpful. She really cares about the students around here,” said Rebecca Sappington, a mechanical engineering student.

The feeling is mutual.

“The Tech community is amazing,” Steinhoff said.

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