PI: Sipahi, R.; Frank, S.; Gouldstone, A.; and Jaeger, B. K. Proposal Number: 1133992

Synopsis This GARDE proposal describes activities to investigate fundamental aspects of hand-pen-paper interaction during writing, with a movement disorder that causes undesired oscillation (tremors). Efforts will lead to strategies to accommodate such a disorder, and in return improve writing ability of those suffering from kinetic tremor - a type of impairment found in 10-12 million people in the US with Parkinson's Disease, Essential Tremor, and Dystonia. The novelty of our proposal is the interdisciplinary, engineering-based approach; we frame this problem in terms of the following questions: -Given a set of wrist vibrations, what are the pen grip/pen mechanics conditions that would cause "unintended penmanship" (i.e., pen slip on paper)? How can penmanship be improved actively or passively? To address this complex problem, we first frame writing ability in the context of human factors and performance metrics (PM) on end-users. The elderly target population will be established via collaboration with a neurologist at Boston Medical Center. We then build dynamic models of a pen being oscillated by the hand, under various conditions, and use a control theory approach to accommodate oscillations, on the pen. Finally, we will implement and construct these approaches into a "Smart Pen" that will be tested on an end-user population. Design refinements will also include 3D contact mechanics models of grip and friction, and undergraduate Senior Design team efforts in prototypes, using a series of sensors and actuators.

Intellectual Merit This activity is important, in that beyond simply making a "better pen", it seeks to fully define the design space within which researchers can work to accommodate the effects of a movement disorder upon writing. The problem is tractable, as we have assembled experts in contact mechanics (CAREER awardee), controls, human factors and neurology. We believe this work could transform the field, as other researchers can access our modeling data and use guidelines to explore further therapeutic concepts. In addition, this work will promote the concept of "computational design." We have made every effort to make the thrusts correct, synergistic, relevant and within the scope of the devised program, and will leverage existing resources at NU (including startup grants) to purchase necessary equipment.

Broader Impact The graduate assistant(s) in this program will be exposed to a highly interdisciplinary set of scientific studies, creating a well-rounded base, with strong societal perspective. The PI's and expected undergraduate participants represent a range of demographics, including support from NU?s minority programs. Specific dissemination activities are ambitious and pervasive, and will leverage the PIs' projects BELLA (Bringing Education and Lifelong Learning to Adults) through seminars and discussions directly to the elderly population. Undergraduate senior engineering students will use the design criteria to build actual prototype devices. The results, devices and dissemination will be highly enabling and empowering, particularly to the elderly, as it will provide them with a non-invasive means to maintain independence later in life. Other possible uses for this work include healthy subjects and/or tremor patients holding a cup filled with liquid, holding a utensil, manipulating a joystick, operating machinery, holding a sensitive device in precision surgery or in a vibratory environment.

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Northeastern University
United States
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