Student inventor competes in D.C.
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:29AM
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 for giving him “a leg up” on the art of inventing.
Now a junior studying 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 at the recent 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.
Ronning lived in Lincolnwood his entire life prior to moving to Madison for college. His mother, Lydia, is a German teacher at Niles West and his dad, John, is an architect. His brother attends Chicago-Kent College of Law, and the family lives a block away from his grandmother, called “Oma” by everyone.
“Even though we’re all busy doing our own things, we have a lot of fun when we’re together as a family,” he said.
He said he is proud of the cultural diversity of his hometown, which he said he didn’t fully appreciate until he moved to Madison.
He became interested in mechanical engineering as a child, when he said he was “always taking stuff apart to figure out their inner workings.” Mechanical engineering, he said, seemed like a natural fit for him.
The prosthetic hand he developed was inspired after Ronning 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,” he said. “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.”
Ronning said he would like to see his invention do well in the United States and developing countries.
And, of course, he 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,” he said.~.