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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Student Projects May Help Elders with Driving and Rehabilitation

For Spring quarter 2008, five teams of Stanford students in the Senior Design course, ME 113, are working on projects that could benefit the elderly and persons with disabilities. Under the guidance of Professor Drew Nelson and a teaching staff of coaches, teams are working on a variety of projects: a seat design that may help elders be more comfortable entering and exiting their cars; an attachment that will make it easier for wheelchair users to get in and out of a special rehabilitation treadmill; a device that motivates children with Cerebral Palsy to walk better and that may have applications for stroke survivors; a surfboard steering system for disabled surfers, be they young or old; and a training device for an Olympic wheelchair racer.

At the end of the quarter, the teams’ functional devices will be displayed and demonstrated at the EXPE 2008 event (http://expe.stanford.edu/index.php). While the students’ efforts will be prototypes, each may have a significant commercialization potential. Stanford's Office of Technology Licensing (http://otl.stanford.edu/) will work with companies that are interested in bringing these devices to market.

The projects:

1) BMW Ingress/Egress
Design team: Jared Murphy, Samantha Cunningham, Mickey McDaniels, Melissa Kamura

The majority of low-slung vehicles have seat designs to accommodate a limited range of consumers. Individuals with restricted mobility –– such as the elderly, obese, and handicapped –– require further exertion and strain to enter and exit such cars. Driver's seat modifications in the BMW 5-Series Sedan provide additional support for the seated individual. However, little assistance is available to support drivers as they enter and exit the driver's seat.

As a result, older and handicapped individuals tend towards larger vehicles, although they would prefer the efficiency, aesthetics, and cost of a smaller car. Observation of individuals revealed various sources of discomfort for people maneuvering into their vehicles: low-slung seats, having to clear a low-positioned steering wheel, dashboard obstruction, doors that swung too far open and are difficult to close, a too-small car door frame, and hindrance from the bottom lip of the door frame.

The BMW Ingress/Egress project will explore solutions that could expand ingress/egress comfort in the BMW 5-Series to persons of limited mobility. An optimal solution will assist the individual in entering and exiting the car while maintaining seat functionality and overall BMW safety standards.

2) G-Trainer Access Assistance –– Team America
Design team: Jonathan Hofus, David Woodbury, Taiei Harimoto, Robert McBride

Alter-G's G-Trainer is a cutting-edge training treadmill for competitive athletes, and an ideal tool for rehabilitation and therapeutic purposes. Recently cleared by the FDA, the G-Trainer's unique “un-weighting” technology enables users to gradually regain walking or running ability by experiencing as little as 20 percent of their body weight as they walk or run on the treadmill.

While the G-Trainer has great potential in the field of rehabilitation, currently it has significant barriers of entry for the market that includes physically weak or disabled persons. This student team will design an attachment to the G-Trainer that will make it easier for wheelchair users to get in and out of the G-Trainer.

3) Pediatric Gait Project -– Step Function
Design team: Whitney King, Obinna Emenike, Nydia Cardenas, Roseanne Warren

The Step Function team is continuing to work on a project begun last quarter in ENGR110 that addresses poor gait among children with cerebral palsy. This project also has applications for stroke survivors who have walking problems.

The team will combine corrective and motivational therapeutic walking features into a wearable device. Specifically, students will focus on the problem of toe walking –– where there is little or no heel contact with the ground while walking. Most children who toe-walk could actually get their heels down if they concentrated on the task. For many, this is painful and difficult, so they give up. As a result they do not strengthen their tibialis anterior muscle, which will make it harder to correct their gait at a later age.

The iGait device incorporates a footswitch shoe insert that will trigger the playing of an iPod if the patient achieves heel contact for a given percentage of steps. We hope to have three levels of difficulty as well as provide immediate real-time feedback each time the heel strikes the ground.

4) Joystick Controlled Surfboard for Disabled Surfers –– Der Hammer'd
Design team: Andy Zimbroff, Cole Bennet, Mike Lindquist, Warren King

The Surfboard team is working with a local engineering company to develop a surfboard system appropriate for surfers with disabilities, be they young or old. Specifically, the surfboard will be designed for a quadriplegic rider who has no use of his legs and has limited upper body mobility.

The company will develop an electric propulsion system and the student team will design a companion steering system. The goal is to enhance the surfing experience for the disabled surfer by providing him with better control of his surfboard.

5) Draft Board for Professional Wheelchair Racer -– Velociraptors
Design team: George Nelson, Michael Bury, Jonah Greenberger, Nathan Fenner

The goal of this project is to construct a “draft board” that will mount on the back of a bicycle and be used by an internationally competitive wheelchair racer in training for the Beijing Paralympics in September. This device will be used to simulate a race-pace drafting situation for daily training. It will allow the athlete to regularly train at several miles per hour faster than she would be able to do alone.

Source: http://longevity.stanford.edu/mybody/mobility/assistivetechnology/studentprojects

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