Boots made for walkin’

Of the 700,000 new stroke cases each year, only 37% regain the ability to walk. That means more the 440,000 people requiring mobility assistance are added to the overburdened healthcare system annually — and that’s just stroke patients.

Rehabilitation is obviously a key component to changing these statistics, but without quantitative data not much can change.

A team of undergraduate mechanical engineering students* in Constantinos Mavroidis’ lab saw these statistics as more than enough reason to develop a device that could aid physical therapists in their attempt to help patients walk again.

With the help of graduate-student co-advisors Elias Brassitos and Ozer Unluhisarcikli, the team created the Triple hinge Ankle-foot Exoskeleton for Lower Extremity Rehabilitation. That’s something of a mouthful, so like all good engineers, they came up with a relevant acronym: TrAvELER.

TrAvELER, which rehab patients wear around their ankle/lower leg, uses three different types of sensors (an accelerometer, an encoder, and a force sensor) to generate data about a person’s gait. PTs can use this data to tailor and track an individual patient’s therapy and progress.

The device also works in conjunction with another project out of Mavroidis’ lab –  a rehabilitation exoskeleton called ANdROS.

By understanding the way a stroke patient successfully regains the ability to walk, this work also has the potential to inform better treatments for the other 440,000.

The project won one of the two Best MIE Capstone Project Awards in Fall 2011.

*Amy Sauger, Mary Chenard, Kevin Davids, Kim Masi,  and Axel K Paganakis.


Photo courtesy of the research team.