Overview: Mobility is a key factor to well-being, both emotionally (through increased independence and decreased depression and anxiety) and physically (through reduced disease risk, bone maintenance, muscle strength, and weight control). Over a million US citizens are limb amputees, primarily lower leg amputees. This CAREER program will 1) work to improve the mobility of lower extremity amputees through research in design and control of powered ankle-foot prostheses, which mimic the steering mechanism of human gait by having two controllable degrees of freedom (DOF) and 2) integrate research with education and outreach to inspire and equip a diverse next generation of engineers. To work toward these long-term goals, this CAREER program will develop ? and use in education and outreach - a lightweight, cable-driven, powered ankle-foot prosthesis capable of steering and traversing slopes by learning from human ankle impedance in the sagittal and frontal planes during gait. Intellectual Merit: This project is based on the hypothesis that an ankle-foot prosthesis capable of applying torques and impedance modulation in both the sagittal and frontal planes, similar to the human ankle, will improve maneuverability and increase mobility by lowering the metabolic cost of gait - both when walking straight and turning. Advances in powered prostheses have shown the ability to reduce metabolic cost and increase the preferred speed of gait for unilateral transtibial amputees during straight walking by providing sufficient power during push-off. Powered prostheses can also reduce asymmetrical gait patterns and thus may lower risk of secondary complications. However, studies show that turning steps account for 8-50% of steps, depending on activity, and thus may account for 25% of daily steps. Modulation of ankle impedance in the sagittal and frontal planes plays a major role in controlling lateral and propulsive ground reaction forces. While a non-amputee relies on hip movement in the coronal plane and the moment generated in the ankle joint, an amputee using a passive prosthesis uses the hip extension in the sagittal plane as a gait strategy [5-8]. The hypothesis is supported by the PI?s preliminary results which show a large inversion of the ankle during the stance period of step turns, indicating a significant deviation of ankle rotations from the straight-step pattern. Understanding the role of the ankle in locomotion and developing a platform for design and control of a new ankle-foot prostheses will allow exploratory research and education. Research will include: Thrust 1: Estimate ankle impedance in the sagittal and frontal planes during the stance period of gait; Thrust 2: Develop a powered ankle-foot prosthesis with two controllable DOF; Thrust 3: Evaluate the design and control of the prosthesis using an evaluation platform and with below-knee amputees through collaboration with Mayo Clinic; and Thrust 4: Education/Outreach: Utilize the steerable ankle-foot prosthesis for education, outreach, and research experiences to impact diverse K-12, community college, undergraduate, and graduate students. The work is significant in that it will contribute 1) new knowledge about multivariable impedance modulation of the human ankle during the stance period of gait, an area not yet fully explored, and 2) a unique framework for developing and evaluating powered ankle-foot prostheses. The steerable ankle-foot prosthesis is innovative because it will enable amputees to walk with a more natural gait by using the ankle joint, rather than merely the hip and knee. Development of this novel platform will be a substantial step toward the PI?s long-term goal of improving design and maneuverability in lower extremity assistive prostheses and robots. Broader Impacts: Robotics is a high-impact way to attract the attention of future engineers. This project will develop outreach activities that spark and sustain STEM interest in pre-college students, especially underrepresented minorities. Development of an inexpensive powered ankle-foot prosthesis will improve well-being of Wounded Warriors and civilian amputees, while at the same time inspiring and training the future STEM workforce. In addition, the PI has designed and developed a low-cost EMG-controlled manipulator as educational platform that will be used in outreach programs to teach fundamentals of mechatronics, robotics, and biomechanics to K-12, community college, undergraduate, and graduate students. The developed outreach programs will be rigorously evaluated and then made publicly available to other researchers.

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Michigan Technological University
United States
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