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BLUE SABINO Manufacturing

One-of-a-kind major research instrumentation project taking shape

U of I’s Department of Mechanical Engineering offers unique learning opportunities and is a great place to engage in research. While some graduate students work with cutting-edge tools, others get to build them. Mechanical engineering faculty researchers Joel Perry and Eric Wolbrecht, together with graduate students and ME machine shop supervisor Bill Magnie, are adding one more distinguishing trait to the mechanical engineering department’s tool belt: a two-arm robotic exoskeleton instrument that performs bilateral functional assessment of the upper extremities (i.e., arms and hands).

BLUE SABINO Manufacturing

The culmination of a 5-year $1.4M NSF Major Research Instrumentation project, the BiLateral Upper-limb Exoskeleton for Simultaneous Assessment of Biomechanics and Neuromuscular Output, BLUE SABINO, is starting to take shape. Once complete, it will be the only instrument of its kind in the world, extending simultaneous measurement of human movement during real tasks to the full arm and hand complex while capturing data from the central and peripheral nervous systems via EEG and EMG measurement.

This summer, linkages that connect the first five degrees of freedom (DOFs or joints) of the system were manufactured in the ME machine shop. The 5-DOF version essentially forms an exoskeleton structure that surround a user’s arm from the shoulder to the wrist. Once properly adjusted, the design allows the robot to move with the user and maintain alignment between each exoskeleton joint and a corresponding joint on the user. Interactions between the exoskeleton and user are currently measured by two 6-axis force/torque sensors that quickly and accurately monitor initiated movements of the user’s hand and forearm. When measurement, calculation, and motor commands are performed at a sufficiently high rate (~1000 Hz), the exoskeleton can effectively be used as an assessment instrument to measure user mobility, or provide assistive support forces.

BLUE SABINO realization has been the topic of several Master’s degrees already and will support several more before completion. The 5-DOF assembly shown in Figure 2 represents contributions from current students (Chris Bitikofer, Tony Branz, Rene Maura, Melissa Bogert, and Sebastian Rueda-Parra), and past students (Parker Hill, Shawn Trimble, Jeremiah Schroeder, and Nick Butler). In total, the final system will be composed of 30 powered degrees of freedom, 16 unpowered DOFs, and several additional lockable joints for size adjustability. The BLUE SABINO instrument is scheduled for completion in 2021, but even now it is providing a valuable platform for learning more about how we can monitor, quantify, and improve function in the arms and hands.

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Engineering Physics Building Rm. 324K

Mailing Address:

Mechanical Engineering
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 0902
Moscow, ID 83844-0902

Phone: 208-885-6579

Fax: 208-885-9031