NBC Learn: Exoskeletons and Engineering

NBC Learn logo for the Discovering YOU series - engineer your world. Supported by NSF, Chevron, and ASEE.

We partnered with NBC Learn to share some of our work on exoskeletons to help encourage students to consider a career in engineering. What can be more exciting than musculoskeletal modeling, exoskeletons, horses, and stuffed animals?

Check out the video – a lesson plan will also be posted soon for classrooms to use.

Go team!

ISB 2019 Recap

Five members of our lab – Kat, Michael, Alyssa, Megan, & Nicole – attended ISB 2019 in Calgary, Canada. The International Society of Biomechanics promotes and supports international contacts amongst scientists, the dissemination of knowledge, and the activities of national organizations in the field of biomechanics.

Four individuals stand in hallway smiling at conference.

Our work at the conference included:

Kat Steele: ISB presentation on in-clinic EMG monitoring for muscle activity and movement in acute care in the initial days after stroke.
Michael Rosenberg: ISB poster showcasing how individuals’ kinematics and muscle activity change in response to ankle exoskeleton stiffness during acceleration from standing. ISB presentation on open-loop modeling of response to ankle exoskeleton torque during walking.
Alyssa Spomer: ISB poster highlighting how motor control is impacted when typically developing individuals emulate cerebral palsy gait patterns. ISB poster on understanding how individuals can alter motor control expression using visual biofeedback.
Megan Auger: ISB presentation on how muscle coordination strategies in typically developing children and children with cerebral palsy are not accurately captured using standard musculoskeletal modeling optimization algorithms in computer simulation.
Nicole Zaino: ISB presentation on spasticity reduction via rhizotomy in children with cerebral palsy and how there was no significant difference in the change in energy consumption when compared to a control group of children with cerebral palsy who had no rhizotomy.


TGCS 2019

Additionally, two members of our lab – Michael & Megan – attended TGCS 2019 in Canmore, Canada prior to ISB 2019. The Technical Group on Computer Simulation (TGCS) is a scientific and technical meeting for investigators and students in all areas of computer simulation in biomechanics. This group was a highly-focused subset of the ISB community, primarily focusing on forward simulation of unimpaired and pathological gait patterns, but also touching on multi-scale simulation, diving, cycling, and wheelchair use. 

A mountain view in Canmore, Canada with sharp jagged peaks and a bright blue lake.
Michael standing in the front of a room in between two screens giving a presentation.
Michael Rosenberg: TGCS presentation on Dynamic Mode Decomposition for modeling response to ankle exoskeletons during gait.

US Patent Office Visit

Patent examiners spend their days critically evaluating the latest innovations, to determine if they are useful, novel, and non-obvious. When one of our students asked them what daily life is like as a patent examiner they responded, we basically write a 10-15 page report every 2-3 days.

Thankfully the patent office lets them escape from behind their computers a few times a year to meet with companies, research labs, and other entities. These visits help them see what is new and exciting in their specialty area.

We were lucky enough to host one of these teams this past week in the AMP Lab. Tim Stanis, a primary examiner from Art Unit 3786 that specializes in exoskeletons, orthoses, passive motion rehabilitation devices, and biomechanical technology led the visit. He was joined by nine other examiners.

One of the patent examiners in a red checkered shirt answers students questions. He is seated at a table with hands clasped in front of him.

Our lab demoed our latest creations in orthoses, biofeedback systems, and smartphone sensing. Patrick Aubin from the VA Hospital, Murray Maitland from Rehab Medicine, Chet Moritz from Electrical Engineering, and Tapo Bhattacharjee also shared their latest work.

We ended the session with a Q&A Panel for summer students to learn about career opportunities as a patent examiner and advice for new innovators. Most of the examiners had an undergraduate or master’s degree in engineering. They emphasized that working for the patent office is a great, flexible career path. As a patent examiner they are able to work remotely, have flexible hours, and enjoy other benefits such as having law school paid for.

Students listen attentively to the Q&A Panel. Some look bored, some look amused, and one is even taking notes, or maybe doodling!

For new innovators, they emphasized the importance of understanding the patent landscape. They recommended using Google Patents! Patents can seem intimidating. They recommended starting with the pictures and focusing on the claims. They also emphasized the importance of having a team. Translating technology requires team members with technical, business, and clinical backgrounds.

For our part, we were excited to meet real, live patent examiners. We appreciated seeing their faces and enjoyed sharing our work with them.

RehabWeek/ISPO Canada Best Student Poster: Brandon Nguyen!

Brandon Nguyen standing in front of his poster at RehabWeek wearing a dark blue shirt. His poster features images of the smartphone app and graphs.

Congrats to Brandon Nguyen who was awarded the Best Student Poster award by the International Society of Prosthetics & Orthotics Canada at RehabWeek in Toronto this past week! Brandon presented his work, “Accuracy and repeatability of using smartphone sensors for orthotic tuning.”

Check out his abstract and poster.

You can also download the HuskySTEPS app to try it out yourself.


The ISPO student award winners for 2019 rehab week, including four students with Brandon in the middle, and the two main conference award organizers.

This work, in collaboration with Nick Baicoianu and Darrin Howell, examined the accuracy of measuring shank-to-vertical angle during walking with a smartphone compared to traditional motion capture systems. Shank-to-vertical angle is a measure used by orthotists and therapists for AFO tuning and gait training. The short story – placing the smartphone on the front of the shank can measure shank-vertical-angle with errors less than two degrees compared to traditional motion capture systems, with high intra-rater and inter-rater repeatability across days.


Brandon dressed in his purple graduation regalia in front of the UW fountain

Brandon also recently finished his Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree at the University of Washington – making him one of the rare engineer-therapists. In recognition of his efforts to combine academic scholarship with social awareness and concern, he was awarded the 2019 UW Graduate Medal.

Congratulations Brandon! We are so excited to see what you do next.

Congratulations – Makoto Eyre is awarded a UWIN WRF Innovation Undergraduate Fellowship in Neuroengineering

Makoto Eyre has been selected as a WRF Innovation Undergraduate Fellow in Neuroengineering for the UW Institute for Neuroengineering. The UWIN fellowship provides funding and is a highly prestigious and selective competition. Congratulations, Makoto!

Makoto’s research seeks to use muscle synergies, a clinically-useful, low-dimensional representation of motor coordination, to quantify and compare the effects of AFOs on motor control strategies employed during SS and nSS gait. Ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) are a common intervention for cerebral palsy and stroke survivors, with most research on the impacts of AFOs on impaired locomotion and motor control focuses on steady state (SS) gait despite a large portion of locomotion being non-steady state (nSS). As nSS locomotion may rely on different neuromuscular control strategies, AFOs optimized for SS may be suboptimal to nSS locomotion.