Michigan State engineering school creates special brace for Nick Ward's hand

Nick Ward with a brace on his left hand (Michigan State University)

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Engineering students at Michigan State University stepped in to help one of the school basketball team's injured stars. 

Nick Ward, the 6-foot-8 center who was averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds a game, fractured his left hand in February. The team is about to start play in the NCAA tournament, and Ward's involvement will be key. 

That's why a team of professors and engineering students rushed to help him by creating a special brace for his hand. The schools says fans first saw the brace during the Big Ten Tournament when the Spartans beat University of Michigan Wolverines. 

Nick Richey, Michigan State men’s basketball athletic trainer, first reached out to school's College of Engineering about creating something for Ward. 

"This was an outstanding opportunity for MSU engineering faculty and students to work together with MSU athletics to make a difference,” said Reid Bush, who’s also part of the Biomechanical Design Research Lab. “I've shared this story with all of my classes and students. The excitement it generates in the classroom is amazing; students can relate to the issue and see the engineering solution.”

Here's how it worked, according to the engineering college: 

The process began when Richey’s request was forwarded to Reid Bush. Her team scanned Ward’s hand and created a 3D model. Working with Ward’s stand-in – Xavier Tillman, MSU forward – her lab also collected force data to gauge the stress caused from dribbling, passing and shooting.

Reid Bush then passed the model to Drzal, Pence, Mike Rich and Ed Drown who worked with the Composite Materials and Structures Center, and the MSU-Fraunhofer Center for Coatings and Diamond Technologies. Working together, they fabricated a brace from carbon fiber and epoxy components and computed the stresses the device could withstand.

The brace was ready just four days before the Big 10 tournament. After a few adjustments, Ward practiced with it two days before tipoff.

2 Michigan State  vs. 15 Bradley 2:45 p.m., CBS

Michigan State enters the tournament for the 22nd straight time after finishing the regular season with a Big Ten regular season title and a conference tournament title. The Spartans finished 28-6 and are winners of 10 of their last 11.

The Bradley Braves finished 20-14, placing fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference. This is their first tournament appearance since 2006.

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