Over 100 000 people suffer from muscular dystrophy in North America. Although there are many types of muscular dystrophy, the most common type is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disorder causing progressive muscle degeneration over the span of twenty to thirty years, always resulting in a patient’s early death. Children affected by DMD gradually lose the ability to walk, write or even feed themselves, often requiring full-time care by the age of 12.
Our device, an active brachial exoskeleton, is a lightweight mechanical structure attached to the child’s wheelchair that allows the patient to move both arms again. Electrodes placed on the forearm and shoulder detect the action potential from nerves and activate motors to move the exoskeleton accordingly. The patient’s arms are placed inside the exoskeleton, which means that although he or she doesn’t have the strength to move his or her own arms, the exoskeleton will help them move their arms by amplifying their strength. The exoskeleton is attached to the patient’s wheelchair, allowing a better weight and power distribution and making it easily accessible to the patient. Its 6 degrees of freedom allow almost all movements of the arm.
Since muscle degeneration occurs over a long period of time and the rate of degeneration can vary from one patient to another, it is mandatory that the device is correctly adjusted to the patient’s own strength. A machine learning algorithm analyses the intensity and frequency of action potential detected by the electrodes and iteratively adjusts the motors’ torque in order to move the arms without injuring the user. This iterative process gradually adapts during muscle degeneration to favour long-term use of the exoskeleton, even as the patient’s strength wanes.
Physical therapy allows the patient to reach his or her limited maximum potential in terms of physical strength. Using an active exoskeleton may slow down or minimize the muscles’ degradation and contracture. Combined with other treatments currently used to treat DMD, the exoskeleton can help the patient regain his or her partial independence and live a better life without constant help.
This project has won the fourth place at the 2017 Canadian Engineering Competition in the Innovative Design category, as well as the second place at the 2017 Quebec Engineering Competition and first place at the 2016 Polytechnique Engineering Competition in the same category.
Over 40 engineering students, engineers and students in ergotherapy are part of METIS, our technical committee from École Polytechnique Montréal.
Easy one-click social registrationIs this safe?
We only receive the minimum information necessary to verify your account. We never get access to your friends/contacts or your profile, and we never post on your behalf. Your social account is used for logging in only.ORRegister via email
Send me updates on this Contest
In order to ensure a fair voting process and to make sure that no one votes more than once, we ask that you register either with a social networking account (easiest, only requires one click) or by registering with your email address (this will require you to click on a verification email that we will send you).
You only need to register once.