Engineering Seniors Win International Design Award

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mechanicalengineeringdeviceThe student project, “Design of a Device for Raising, Lowering, and Transporting a Disabled Individual with Limited Lower Body Strength,” by Mechanical Engineering seniors Thomas Galeotafiore, Justin Miles, Jeffrey Renert, and supervised by Professor Anurag Purwar, won first place at the 2010 ASME Mechanism and Robot Design Competition for undergraduate students held in Montreal, Canada, during the 2010 ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences.

This competition is held annually and is conducted in two rounds with the final round culminating in an on-site competition among the top four invited teams from around the world. The teams make an oral presentation, a poster presentation, and also demonstrate their physical prototype. The award and the travel grant for these three students was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and industry.

The student team working with Purwar designed a device to assist people with limited lower body strength in going from a seated to a standing position and vice-versa, and subsequently function as a stabilizing device for walking. The genesis of this project lies in making a device for a retired doctor, Hari B. Pillai, who provided initial funding for this project along with the NY State SPIR program.

This device can be used by a wide range of people, including those with lower-body debilitating ailments and multiple sclerosis, and children and seniors with weakness in their legs. Many of these people are able to walk with the assistance of a standard medical walker once in a standing position, but the process of getting into the standing position can be an arduous task requiring assistance from others.

Existing products for lifting a person into a standing position are generally non-portable, heavy, cannot fit through standard doorways, require assistance from other people, and/or cannot be used as a standard walker. To address these problems, the group designed and prototyped an assistive device combining the lift and walking functions. Designed in a compact way, it mainly consists of two parallel-motion six-bar linkages driven by two synchronized linear actuators and supported by a wheeled frame, which lifts the user from the seated to the standing position, and then allows the user to use it as a walker.

Tests with prospective clients up to 250 lbs showed that the prototype provided stable and comfortable lift-up support. A patent recently filed by the Research Foundation is pending for the device. This project was supported by an NSF grant awarded to Professors Yu Zhou, Jeffrey Ge, and Lisa M. Muratori.

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