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PROPEL Lab - Current Research

Three men in a lab. One with prosthetic knee and two scientists.

The PROPEL conducts research to develop new technologies and techniques to help individuals with severe physical disabilities walk again and be physically active.

Research studies include rehabilitation engineering, prosthetics, orthotics, assistive devices, engineering design, biomechanics, human gait, gait and balance assessment, video-game based rehab, evidence-based practice, and technologies for developing countries.

Artificial Sensory Substitution & Biofeedback

The goal of this research is to develop a wearable biofeedback system to augment gait training for individuals with lower-limb amputations and other patient populations. The work involves the characterization of human responses to haptic signals related to mobility and balance, development of algorithms for haptic signaling, and the development of a system platform for testing. The wearable system is comprised of sensors and algorithms to detect abnormalities in gait patterns and vibrating motors to provide corrective feedback signaling.

Rafael and Alexandria's research is in this area.

Wearable Systems and Biosensing

Intelligent prostheses incorporating biosensing capabilities can provide continuous monitoring of the body-device interface, and enable early detection of conditions that may require clinical intervention. Fully integrating biosensors for measuring biomechanical and physiological aspects of prosthetic and orthotic function is an essential first step towards fully adaptable intelligent prostheses that can both detect and respond to the user’s changing physiology, anatomy, functional requirements, as well as activities and environment. Our work in this area includes characterization of existing transducers as well as the development of novel sensors for assistive device applications.

Megan's research is in this area.

Development of High Performance Prosthetics and Orthotics

Prostheses are essential in enabling safe and effective gait and mobility for individuals with amputation. Utilizing biomechanical models and simulations, advanced computer-aided design techniques, and empirical testing methods to quantify function, our team is developing novel prosthetic and orthotic knee joint designs and controllers. We are also exploring application of additive manufacturing for fabrication of prosthetic and orthotic devices.

High Performance Gait and Balance in Rehabilitation

This work aims to expand our understanding of gait and balance in individuals with severe physical and mobility impairments, with a particular focus on children with lower limb amputations. The primary tools include biomechanical assessment and human movement analysis. Currently projects include the characterization of running biomechanics of children using running prostheses, and the development of a tool for standing balance using functional electrical stimulation with visual feedback training.

Firdous and Emerson's research is in this area.

Assistive Technology for the Global Need

Our lab aim to develop and engineer treatments and assistive technologies that are accessible around the world. Our focus is to develop cost-effective solutions to empower individuals with disabilities to walk and be physically active. Our work includes developing technologies and testing them as part of clinical trials around the world. Clinical trials have been conducted with partners in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.