Mohammad Rastgaar, PhD, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department at Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech), Houghton, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) $500,000 grant to further advance a powered ankle-foot prosthesis he has developed. The prosthetic joint is multiaxis, meaning it can move the foot from side to side as well as up and down. The prosthesis has sensors on the bottom of the foot to detect how the user is walking. The sensors instantaneously send signals to a microprocessor, which in turn adjusts the prosthesis to make walking more natural. As part of an earlier study, Rastgaar’s team designed and built a large circular treadmill on which their robotic foot walks in circles.
The five-year NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award will provide Rastgaar with funds to further develop the prosthesis further. He will additionally further study the dynamics of the human ankle and apply his findings to the prosthesis. Then the improved design will be evaluated on individuals with amputations at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
“I learned about the importance of the human ankle at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge], and when I came to Michigan Tech I focused on mimicking the ankle’s dynamics in ankle-foot robots,” Rastgaar said. “I wanted to help people in a very direct way, and that’s what we are doing. Eventually, I’d like to commercialize our prosthesis. It should be helping amputees walk.”
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by Michigan Tech.