Student inventor competes in D.C.
Eric Ronning, 21, of Lincolnwood is a Collegiate Inventors Competition finalist for his work to develop a low-cost prosthetic hand. | Photo provided
Updated: January 14, 2013 4:48PM
LINCOLNWOOD – Eric Ronning has the following advice for government leaders.
“Support creativity and invention at the junior and collegiate levels,” Ronning said. “It gets (students) to go out and pursue ideas they think could work.”
Ronning, 21, of Lincolnwood, credits a robust education and access to high-tech resources at Niles West High School in Skokie for giving him “a leg up” on the art of inventing.
Now a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ronning created a synthetic hand controlled by a series of pulleys that is replicable with 3D printing.
The invention earned him one of 14 spots Monday and Tuesday at the national Collegiate Inventors Competition in Washington, D.C. Ronning also formed a company to further research and development of the high-performance prosthetic.
“It’s my hope to develop a product that can compete in the U.S. but can also serve developing countries as well,” Ronning said.
Q: How long have you lived in Lincolnwood?
A: My entire life before I moved to Madison for college.
Q: Please tell me about your family.
A: My mom, Lydia, is a German teacher at Niles West. My dad, John, is an architect. My brother attends Chicago-Kent College of Law. We also live a block away from my grandmother, who we call “Oma.” Even though we’re all busy doing our own things, we have a lot of fun when we’re together as a family.
Q: What about Lincolnwood makes you proud?
A: I’m most proud of the cultural diversity that is celebrated in Lincolnwood, which I couldn’t fully appreciate until I moved to Madison.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant or entertainment venue in town?
A: Don’t make me choose between Lou’s and (L.) Woods.
Q: What got you interested in mechanical engineering?
A: When I was younger, I was always taking stuff apart to figure out their inner workings, so mechanical engineering already seemed like a good fit for me.
Q: What inspired you to develop a prosthetic hand?
A: I had read a number of articles describing the current technology on the market and how there needs to be more development. I thought of a mechanism that seemed promising, so I pursued it. When I realized that the mechanism would not only allow a fully articulating prosthetic, but an inexpensive one as well, that’s when I became very excited with the idea.
Q: What are your future goals?
A: To see my invention do well in the U.S. market and eventually make its way to developing countries. I’d also like to work on other ideas for inventions. It’s my hope that by the time I graduate I will have established enough credibility and capital to make this my profession.
Q: What is your proudest moment or greatest achievement?
A: Winning the Schoof’s Prize for Creativity, the University of Wisconsin’s invention competition.