T1: Training Initiative on Rehabilitation-Oriented Engineering Design - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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MARS Training Project

Training Initiative on Rehabilitation-Oriented Engineering Design

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This project engages graduate students and senior-level engineering undergraduate students in designing and building robotic (or electromechanical) devices for rehabilitation. Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering school has a long record of collaborative projects with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, many of them for the construction of rehabilitation devices. Some of these projects have been done at the professional level, some as graduate student (doctoral or master’s) research projects, and some as undergraduate capstone design, and freshman introductory design projects. 

The School of Engineering has a widely known and innovative school-wide emphasis on design education, teaching a rigorous client-oriented design methodology. We use a design methodology championed by IDEO, the famous product development company. IDEO has an office in town, and its staff are often available for design reviews of student projects, as are other professionals from nearby engineering companies.  Projects and “clients” are located, often from local business. Local professional engineers and real-world clients provide a compelling realism to the student projects. Using the above methods, resources and courses at several levels create a broad design-based theme for the undergraduate experience.

The structure of the program broadly is as follows. It consists of three quarters of coursework followed by an intensive project in the summer.  During the academic year students will select their project, study client needs, plan feasible approaches, get user feedback, make presentations and timelines and plans – everything short of begin actual construction, which will occur in the summer. It is summarized in the chart below:

Outcome assessment: Annually the MARS PIs and co-PIs will meet for two days to assess the program and plan activities and improvements. The PIs of this component will present a summary of accomplishments, including description of the quality of the students involved and their prospects and career plans; the technical progress accomplished by each team project, and the prospects of each team progress for practical use or commercialization.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), Grant Number #H133E070013.