Students think outside the box with physical therapy project

September 25, 2009

Dwight Schaeffer, a Valley physical therapist, isn’t the only one who recognizes the value of the Advanced Technology Innovation Center (ATIC) and the students in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University. The U.S. News & World Report recently credited both entities as playing a nurturing role in making Phoenix one of the top 10 cities offering tech job opportunities.

ATIC, based at the Polytechnic campus, facilitates science and technology collaborations between businesses and ASU entities for research, design and development of new products or concepts. Download Full Image

Along with ATIC and the engineering technology students in the college, Schaeffer is realizing a dream of developing an automated robotic physical therapy device. Schaeffer has a patent on the device but needed a prototype built in order to move it closer to commercialization.

He contacted ATIC after seeing an article about the center, and the project evolved into a capstone project, which is a culminating activity for undergraduate students in the College of Technology and Innovation.

The first phase of the project, completed last spring, involved research and finalizing a workable design for the device, including a 3-D animated computer model of the device. The second phase, which started this fall semester, is to build a working computer controlled prototype of the arm and shoulder manipulation system, including an easy to use control system interface.

“This is a challenging project,” says Jerry Gintz, senior lecturer in the mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology program and adviser for the project. “This has pushed the students outside their comfort zones to think about the electromechanical systems involved. Humans have sensory perception that robots don’t have, and the students had to consider these carefully in the design.”

Students started with a drawing of what Schaeffer had in mind for the design. Students researched the ergonomics and engineering involved in FDA-approved therapeutic devices that already existed in the market. Through this research, students took Schaeffer’s drawing and revised it into a therapy table that is similar to a dentist chair but can lay flat.

The mechanics behind the table involve a system of electric motors, or actuators, and other devices that will operate the movements but also can sense resistance in the patient’s limbs and stop before causing injury.

“There were definitely obstacles to overcome with the project. One was our lack of knowledge about human anatomy and the lines of body movement,” says mechanical engineering technology senior Amber Brown.

Mark Degarriz, a senior in the mechanical engineering technology program, agrees. “We had to figure out how to engineer the different mechanisms that would move the body in all of the different motions," he says. "At the same time, we had to keep it simple and safe to use.”

Schaeffer is happy with what the students developed. “This is very complex machinery but it’s created in a way that technicians can be trained to run it safely and efficiently,” Schaeffer says. “Safety is the main concern and the students have built that into the design.

“I’m excited about how far-reaching this device’s capabilities will go, how many audiences it will help,” Schaeffer adds. “This can help not only post-operative patients, it also can help people with debilitating diseases such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.”

“This is a real-world project,” says Gintz. “This is a project that will allow the students to apply their engineering education while helping the community.”

Schaeffer says he has enjoyed working with the students on the project. “The kids have done a great job. I’m having almost as much fun as they are.”

Deborah Prewitt, deborah.prewitt">">
(480) 727-1023
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus

Sun Devils fall to Bulldogs

September 26, 2009

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Blair Walsh kicked a 37-yard field goal on the final play and No. 21 Georgia escaped an upset, beating Arizona State 20-17 Saturday on another big night for A.J. Green. Download Full Image

Green caught eight passes for 153 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown in the first quarter that sparked Georgia to an early 14-3 lead. After the Sun Devils rallied, the sophomore receiver played a little defense - getting his left elbow on Bobby">">Bobby Wenzig's 38-yard field goal attempt that could have put the Sun Devils ahead with 4:21 remaining.

Green, who had a career-best 159 yards receiving against Arizona State a year ago, came up with a 36-yard grab for his final reception of the night, which set up Walsh's winning field goal.

Georgia (3-1) barely held up its end of next week's Southeastern Conference showdown against No. 7 LSU, which had survived an upset bid of its own earlier in the day to beat Mississippi State 30-26.

A driving rain that swept through Athens before the game had moved out by the second half, so that couldn't be blamed for Georgia allowing Arizona State to get back in the game.

The Bulldogs committed three turnovers after halftime, two of which led to touchdowns for Arizona State (2-1). The Sun Devils led 17-14 heading to the fourth quarter after Jarrell">">... Holman returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown.

Joe Cox, coming off a five-touchdown performance the previous week against Arkansas, threw another interception with 5 1/2 minutes remaining to put the Sun Devils at the Georgia 20 with the score tied at 17.

The Sun Devils failed to move the ball, calling on Wenzig to attempt a go-ahead kick. The freshman handled the duties because of an injury to regular kicker Thomas">">Th... Weber, who is expected to miss five or six games with a groin ailment.

Wenzig made his first attempt, a 43-yarder in the opening quarter, but he got off a low kick with the game hanging in the balance. The 6-foot-4 Green leaped up and felt it strike his elbow, the ball fluttering harmlessly into the end zone, far short of the goal posts.

Green wasn't done. After Cox went to freshman Rantavious Wooten for an 11-yard completion on third-and-4, Green took off down the left sideline and made another huge play over Pierre"> Singfield. The 36-yard pass carried the Bulldogs to the Arizona State 22, and all Georgia had to do from there was run down the clock and leave the ball in the middle of the field for Walsh's attempt.

The sophomore had not missed all season, and he improved to 9 for 9 with a field goal right down the middle as time ran out. The Bulldogs celebrated near the center of the field, while several Arizona State players collapsed on their side of the line. Holman flung away his helmet in disgust.

Dimitri">">D... Nance rushed for 92 yards and also scored on a 6-yard pass from Danny">">... Sullivan, a score that was set by Holman's recovery of Caleb King's fumble at the Georgia 37.

Three plays later, Holman picked off a pass from Cox at the 47, bounced off one attempted tackle and weaved his way to the end zone for the TD that put the Sun Devils ahead for the first time.

Georgia came back to tie it on Walsh's 21-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the final quarter. The Bulldogs passed up their first chance at the go-ahead kick - going for it on fourth and less than a yard on the Arizona State 28. Fred Munzenmaier, who had scored in the first quarter on a 2-yard run that put Georgia ahead 14-3, was stuffed for no gain. But Walsh and the Bulldogs got another chance. This time, they made the most of it - thanks to Green.