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Newsbeat: Exoskeleton Research Grants


Nitin Sharma will lead the research in a pair of exoskeleton research studies
Reprinted from PN December 2015

Two new National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, totaling $500,209, could provide major dividends for researchers

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Two new National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, totaling $500,209, could provide major dividends for researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in helping paraplegics to walk while wearing a mechanical exoskeleton.

The first grant comes from the General and Age-Related Disabilities Engineering Division of NSF. UNS: Optimal Adaptive Control Methods for a Hybrid Exoskeleton will investigate a new class of control algorithms that adapt to allocate optimized control inputs to functional electrical stimulation (FES) and electric motors during single joint movements, according to a University of Pittsburgh press release.

Coordinating Electrical Stimulation and Motor Assist in a Hybrid Neuroprosthesis Using Control Strategies Inspired by Human Motor Control will be funded by The Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation Division of the NSF. In this study, control algorithms will 
be researched to determine an optimal synergy between FES-induced multi-joint movements and movements aided by a powered exoskeleton.

An assistant professor of mechanical engineering and material science at Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, Nitin Sharma will lead the research in both studies. He’s focusing on the potential of two technologies used for mechanically-assisted walking – FES, which uses low-level electrical currents to activate leg muscles, and powered exoskeletons, which use electric motors mounted on an external frame to move the wearer’s joints.

Sharma plans to have both projects examine the efficiency of exoskeleton technology for manufacturers and hopes to develop new hybrid models.
“Current exoskeleton research is using devices completely powered by electric motors. They have huge battery packs and can only provide a maximum of about an hour of continuous walking,” says Sharma, who received his PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Florida, in the press release. “With FES, you are using a person’s own muscles to make that person walk. FES also has been shown clinically to improve cardiovascular fitness, increase muscle strength and prevent atrophy.”

 

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Newsbeat: Exoskeleton Research Grants

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