Break­through robotic tech­nology from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity has once again received funding from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion. Two inven­tions for stroke reha­bil­i­ta­tion by engi­neering pro­fessor Con­stan­tinos Mavroidis and his team will be funded over the next three years with the amount totaling more than $1 million.

In part­ner­ship with the Har­vard Med­ical School-​​affiliated Spaulding Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Hospital’s Motion Analysis Lab­o­ra­tory, Northeastern’s Robotics and Mecha­tronics Lab­o­ra­tory will develop the Robotic Gait Reha­bil­i­ta­tion (RGR) Trainer and the Active Knee Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Orthotic Device (AKROD) for reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the pelvis and the knee, respectively.

While the RGR Trainer will pro­vide a study of patient-​​robot inter­ac­tion via haptic and visual feed­back pro­vided through the pelvis in post-​​stroke patients, the AKROD project will build upon the tech­nology of a knee reha­bil­i­ta­tion device with resis­tive force devel­oped by Mavroidis and his team during recent years. As part of the cur­rent project, the team will develop and test a device with an active com­po­nent for gait reha­bil­i­ta­tion for stroke suf­ferers with knee problems.

Robotics and mecha­tronics offer the promise of sen­si­tive, objec­tive mea­sure­ments and mobility assis­tance by using wear­able, portable, computer-​​controlled active devices,” said Mavroidis, pro­fessor of mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “These projects will pro­vide major advance­ment of gait retraining in stroke patients and sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment of orthotic inter­ven­tion during normal daily activ­i­ties,” added Dr. Paolo Bonato, director of the Spaulding lab and assis­tant pro­fessor of phys­ical med­i­cine and reha­bil­i­ta­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School.

The RGR Training device will gen­erate force-​​fields applied at the patient’s pelvic area to facil­i­tate tread­mill gait retraining in patients with abnormal gait pat­terns (see pic­ture).

Under the AKROD project, the team will use data from both normal vol­un­teers and hemi­plegic stroke sur­vivors to create training pro­grams for the knee orthosis to assist patients in re-​​establishing a nat­ural gait pat­tern. Con­taining a resis­tive (vari­able damper) and an active (torque actu­ator) com­po­nent, the AKROD is intended to train stroke patients to cor­rect knee hyper­ex­ten­sion during stance and reduced knee flexion during swing.

Both projects include planned edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties, such as the ini­ti­a­tion of under­grad­uate stu­dents (including stu­dents from under-​​represented groups) to do research in robotics applied to reha­bil­i­ta­tion; industry intern­ships; estab­lishing col­lab­o­ra­tive projects in bio­med­ical engi­neering and robotics with the Mass­a­chu­setts high schools to attract new stu­dents in this field; and orga­nizing con­fer­ence and sem­inar series and cre­ating web­sites to show­case infor­ma­tion on robotic reha­bil­i­ta­tion devices.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Northeastern’s School of Tech­no­log­ical Entre­pre­neur­ship, the AKROD project will also include a one semester stu­dent project on market analysis and busi­ness plan­ning for new tech­nolo­gies on wear­able active knee orthoses.

In addi­tion to the part­ner­ship with Spaulding, the AKROD project includes an industry col­lab­o­ra­tion between North­eastern and WGI, Inc., a Massachusetts-​​based leading sup­plier of pre­ci­sion parts and assem­blies for aero­space, indus­trial and med­ical appli­ca­tions. Last year, the uni­ver­sity and the com­pany signed an R&D licensing agree­ment for Electro-​​Rheological Fluid (ERF) – oth­er­wise known as “smart fluid” – tech­nology. ERF is the foun­da­tion of a series of devices invented by Mavroidis and his team, including AKROD.

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Renata Nyul at 617–373-7424 or at r.​nyul@​neu.​edu.