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Teen brainpower drives tech breakthrough

Shiva Nathan wears a headset that detects brain waves, which are transmitted to the robotic arm he built.
Shiva Nathan wears a headset that detects brain waves, which are transmitted to the robotic arm he built.Photos by John Blanding/Globe staff

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A 15-year-old high school sophomore from Westford, Shiva Nathan has earned international renown — and a nice chunk of money — by designing an artificial arm that can be moved around by signals from a person’s brain that are transmitted over a wireless Bluetooth device.

For now, the arm only waves from side to side, while its fingers flex in and out. Nathan cannot control it very precisely. But despite its limitations, Nathan’s mechanical arm is winning plenty of praise.

At last month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, his arm won a $5,000 award for its innovative use of the Bluetooth radio technology found in most cellular phones.

Last year, Nathan won $5,000 worth of electronics gear in a contest sponsored by the Army and Carnegie Mellon University.

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