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ASU students team up with Barrow to create medical rehab devices

ASU students create 3 solutions to help those with impaired mobility.
Entrepreneurship-based class teaches how to move devices out of lab, into world.
June 16, 2017

Therapists and physicians share challenges; engineering professor's class develops solutions, 3 of which are being patented

In most classes, a good job results in an "A."

In Panagiotis Polygerinos’ mechatronics device class, a good job results in a patented invention that improves lives.

The Arizona State University assistant professor (pictured above) teamed his engineering students with therapists and physicians at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to create medical rehab devices.

Three of those devices are being patented.

“Now we have three provisional patents, we’re about to submit for a full application, we have three papers submitted, and who know what else will come?” Polygerinos said.

The class — EGR 598 Mechatronics Device Innovation — is entrepreneurship-based. Students learn how to move their inventions out of the lab and into the world as well as create them.

“The course is about how do you build a device from scratch?” Polygerinos said. “It takes a lot, but it’s worth it.”

Barrow medical professionals came up with about 15 ideas. The class chose three of them and went to work.

Video: See the Soft Robotic Back Orthosis in action.

After back surgery or recovering from a back injury, patients currently have to wear splints.

Splints result in “pressure points, fatigue to the skin, inability to perform in your everyday life because you are restricted,” Polygerinos said. “Now the idea was, can we create a device that is transparent to the user?”

The Soft Robotic Back Orthosis is a variably adjusting device, a network of webbing, straps and soft inflatable bladders that transmits loads and forces around. It protects the back and prevents wearers from movements that would aggravate their injuries.

Video: See how the Soft Robotic Shoulder Assist Device for Wheelchair Users works.

Patients who use wheelchairs develop shoulder pain from repetitively pushing the wheels. The Soft Robotic Shoulder Assist Device for Wheelchair Users gives a boost in pushing at the exact second it is most difficult. Results from experiments with a wheelchair test participant were promising.

People who use walkers tend to lean on them too much, contorting their backs and arms. Handles on the Biofeedback Walker vibrate when users put too much pressure on them. It’s a way of having a physical therapist constantly present, correcting their posture. Students are still developing the walker.

The three teams of four graduate students each were funded by a $2,500 budget from Venturewell, a nonprofit that funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.

Arizona Technology Enterprises, ASU’s intellectual property management company, prepped students on how to bring inventions to market, providing lectures on intellectual property, marketing, licensing and startups.

As well as creating, designing, prototyping and evaluating, students have to write a publication-quality paper and submit it to a conference or journal.

“They have to submit a paper — not to me, that I would put in a drawer after I give them a grade — but they have to submit a paper at a conference,” Polygerinos said.

Instead of only working in the lab, Polygerinos wants to recruit and work with actual patients, to test devices on them, collect more data and prove prototypes work.

The course will be offered again in January 2018.

Projects don’t necessarily need to end with the course, Polygerinos said.

“If they are willing to continue, why not? I am here to help them to completion if they want and to make an impact on the real world,” he said.

Top photo: ASU Assistant Professor Panagiotis Polygerinos demonstrates the Soft Robotic Back Orthosis device as he talks about innovative medical habilitation devices his graduate students at the Polytechnic campus' Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering created with the assistance of physicians and clinicians at the Barrow Neurological Institute, with support from VentureWell and AzTE. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

ASU helps launch makerspace to drive innovation, creativity in Vietnam

June 16, 2017

Arizona State University continues to foster Vietnamese STEM innovation and skill-building with the opening of the Maker Innovation Space in Ho Chi Minh City’s Saigon Hi-Tech Park.

Launched on June 8, the Maker Innovation Space is part of the Building University-Industry Learning and Develop through Innovation and Technology program known as BUILD-IT. This $10.8 million project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, brings academia, industry and government together to invest in a dynamic ecosystem for STEM innovation in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo of large group of people posing at the launch of the Maker Innovation Space in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Arizona State University helped launch the Maker Innovation Space in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as part of the Building University-Industry Learning and Develop through Innovation and Technology program known as BUILD-IT, which brings academia, industry and government together to invest in a dynamic ecosystem for STEM innovation in Vietnam. Photographer: Quynh Giao Download Full Image

The opening of the Maker Innovation space is an important part of the program to help improve applied curricula and advance innovation and entrepreneurship in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Today, on behalf of the management board of Saigon Hi-Tech Park, I would like to express my happiness and appreciation to USAID, BUILD-IT and Arizona State University, who chose SHTP as one of two sites in Vietnam to build the Maker Innovation Space,” said Le Hoai Quoc, president of Saigon Hi-Tech Park. “This takes a very important part to boost the making and innovation activities of students as well as startup projects. Being prepared with the equipment in the Maker Innovation Space, in a short period of time, young people can design, innovate and make their innovative ideas [into] real products.”

The space provides resources for faculty and students in the many universities near Saigon Hi-Tech Park to access machinery and materials for projects, courses, workshops, entrepreneurial development and industry-led student competitions.

“The Maker Innovation Space will be a place for university students to design, create, prototype, and invent products and services through a variety of entrepreneurial and curricular platforms being introduced through the BUILD IT Alliance,” said Jeffrey Goss, associate vice provost for Southeast Asia Programs at ASU and executive director of Global Outreach and Extended Education. “We will partner with industry, local community based organizations, and university partners to launch service oriented programs, such as Engineering Programs in Community Service (EPICS), industry-sponsored eProjects, hackathons, design thinking competitions, and senior design capstone projects.“

These tools and programs will better prepare Vietnamese graduates to meet the needs and capabilities of industry.

At the launch, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said innovation is key to continuing Vietnam’s growing economy.

“The United States promotes innovation through a partnership between academia, the private sector and the government,” Osius said. “Linkages between these three partners form an environment that allows creativity and innovation to take root, and ultimately to power the economy. This system has helped to make America the world’s innovation leader. I see the beginning of that here in Vietnam.”

ASU has been an active part of recent STEM innovation initiatives in Vietnam, including the 2017 STEM Conference hosted by Arizona State University’s Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program and BUILD-IT, the Women in STEM Leadership Program, the Vietnam Engineering Education Conference, and the university invited Vietnamese faculty to campus to learn more about the emerging field of Internet of Things with Intel.  

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering