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LETU Challenges TIME Magazine's 'Best Inventions of 2009'


LeTourneau University is challenging one of TIME Magazine's "Best Inventions of 2009" entries in its Nov. 23 issue. TIME Magazine.com in its "Top 50 Inventions of 2009" has given credit to Stanford University for developing a knee that is strikingly similar to the design of LeTourneau University undergraduate students that has been in production and field testing for five years.

LeTourneau University's undergraduate engineering students have been providing these low-cost prosthetics to amputees in developing countries including Kenya, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Senegal since the project started in 2004.

The program known as LEGS, LeTourneau Engineering Global Solutions, was featured in a Nov. 17, 2006 story by Katie Mangan in the Chronicle of Higher Education and was featured in a front-page story in the Dallas Morning News on July 6, 2008, by Pulitzer-prize winning international correspondent Jim Landers, who traveled to Sierra Leone with videographer Kye R. Lee to cover the story. In June 2009, OandP (Orthotics and Prosthetics) Magazine came out with a story on page 11 about Stanford and LETU stating that both universities had this program.

"Numerous peer-reviewed publications on LEGS at regional academic conferences, as early as 2005, would make this research hard to miss, either for the Stanford graduate students or for TIME magazine," Gonzalez said.

  • Gonzalez presented the LEGS research at the 5th WORLD Congress of Biomechanics in Munich, Germany in August 2006, which led to publication in The Journal of Biomechanics, which is the leading biomechanics journal with the highest impact factor in the field. The LEGS research story was titled: "Development of a low cost, easily manufactured, prosthetic knee technology with improved functionality outcomes for trans-femoral amputees in developing nations."
  • Also in August 2006, LEGS was presented at the State of the Science Conference for Improved Technology Access for Landmine Survivors, in Chicago, Ill.
  • Gonzalez presented the LEGS research at the 12 th World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics in Vancouver, Canada, in July 2007.
  • Also in 2007, Gonzalez was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for the LEGS project.
  • He has been the invited keynote speaker at regional and national conferences, including the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (2007) Annual Meeting in Lake Tahoe, Nev., and at the National Science Foundation (2008) in Washington, D.C.

When an Internet video surfaced several months ago about Stanford's knee project, Dr. Gonzalez e-mailed the faculty member in charge at Stanford to apprise students working on the project.

"I wanted to make sure they knew about LEGS innovative work and history," Gonzalez said. He forwarded the Dallas Morning News front-page article from July 6, 2008, along with a significant list of academic citations about the knee.

"The Stanford knee is the same height, length, width, thickness and orientation," Gonzalez said. "It requires the same number and placement of screws, as well as the depth of the opening for the pylon to the LEGS knee."

"We would be remiss if we did not question this recognition that TIME has awarded to Stanford," said Robert W. Hudson, LETU Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. "Our students and faculty have worked too hard for too long to let this go without a response."

When asked whether LeTourneau University had patented its design, Hudson responded, "We are pursuing a patent, now that our design, research and testing has been accomplished internationally in several countries. Our plan has always been to ease human suffering around the globe with this prosthetic, not to make money."

The Longview News-Journal and KLTV television news ran each ran stories about the similarities of the prosthetic designs. Both news organizations had previously written and produced stories about the LETU prosthetic. The Economic Times , the largest business publication in India, picked up the story, as has the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education.

"I'm pleased TIME magazine recognizes the global significance of this invention but I'm disappointed the magazine failed to recognize the prosthetic knee developed at LeTourneau years ago," said LETU President Dale A. Lunsford. "I pray all of this attention will educate our world that we can transform the lives of thousands of amputees in developing countries with this affordable solution."

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