Project Seminar ExoskeleTUM and Student Initiative DASH go mobile

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Developing a fully actuated lower limb exoskeleton with a students team to remobilize gait impaired patients - that's what the project seminar ExoskeleTUM and the student initiative DASH are about. The long term project goal is the participation at Cybathlon organized by ETH Zurich. Developing exoskeletons requires knowledge from various disciplines to achieve one common goal: return autonomy to gait impaired people. Chih-Yu Chen and Alexandra Buchmann tell how the idea became an interdisciplinary TUM project.

Chih-Yu Chen
Chih-Yu Chen, academic staff member at the Chair of Carbon Composites. Image: Luca Fäth/TUM
Alexandra Buchmann
Alexandra Buchmann, academic staff member at the Chair of Applied Mechanics. Image: Michael Kreutz/TUM
Illustration of an exoskeleton which was developed at TUM
Illustration of an exoskeleton which was developed at TUM, Image: DASH/TUM
ExoskeleTUM - the interdisciplinary project seminar to develop a lower-limb exoskeleton
ExoskeleTUM - the interdisciplinary project seminar to develop a lower-limb exoskeleton, Image: Alexandra Buchmann/TUM

How was the idea born to initiate DASH or the ExoskeleTUM project?

Chih-Yu: I first came into contact with exoskeletons through my research project on rehabilitative external skeletons in collaboration with Imperial College London. While working on the research project, one of my colleagues sent me a link to the homepage of Project March, the exoskeleton student team of TU Delft. So I thought, why don’t we also build an exoskeleton student team at TUM? A student team in this field is quite new and would push the research and teaching in biomedical technology at TUM even more. Through a friend at the TU Delft, I then met Alexandra Buchmann from the Chair of Applied Mechanics. We came together and co-founded the DASH exoskeleton student team.

Alexandra: Chih-Yu wrote to me in November 2021 because I was doing basic research in human gait biomechanics. I was immediately excited and together we took on the coordination with the goal of starting a student initiative. My professor Daniel Rixen and PostDoc Daniel Rejewski then had the idea to combine the project with a seminar and to get other chairs on board. I took over the conception, set-up and coordination for the new course format. Now we are a consortium of several motivated PhD students, a post-doc and more than ten students and are looking for fellows to start the project on a large scale.


What appeals to you personally about the project?

Alexandra: I think it's great that I can apply my research to real, technical products and thus make my contribution to the technology of tomorrow. And also: starting an interdisciplinary project from scratch, experiencing the team spirit and using technology for more inclusion of people with walking disabilities.

Chih-Yu: We are developing something that can help paraplegic people stand up again - a good cause. Moreover, we are a team consisting of talented students from different fields of study and countries. It is where people can meet each other and learn not only the technical part, but also the way of communicating to each other to reach the same goal.


What previous experience do you have?

Alexandra: I studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Munich with a focus on (bio)mechanics and medical technology. During my master's degree, I gained valuable experience in the field of biomechanics for orthopedics and minimally invasive surgery as a working student in the research department of the medical technology company Arthrex. I then wrote my master's thesis at Klinikum Rechts der Isar in the MITI research group in the field of endoscopy and now work as a research assistant at the Chair of Applied Mechanics. In the context of my Doctoral Thesis, I am doing research on the biomechanics of human gait. I bring experience in (bio)mechanics and anatomy of the human locomotor system, biorobotics, engineering biomechanics, neuromuscular modeling and multibody simulation. In my PhD, the focus is on the simulative analysis of human gait and I am very excited to now be able to apply this theoretical knowledge to exoskeletons.

Chih-Yu: I have previous experience in robotics and mechanical design. I was part of the robotics club in high school, and we designed and built a sandbag picking robot for the VEX robotics competition. At that time, we made it to the VEX regional competition in Japan and the world competition in the USA. During my bachelor years, I did a research project in soft robotics, which gave me an insight into medical usage of robots. In my masters, I designed a prosthetic arm for an 8-year-old amputee to realize his dream of playing guitar. These experiences have built up my interest in biomedical technology and become passionate in designing an exoskeleton for paraplegic patients.

 

Alexandra: As we are trying to build an exoskeleton, talents from everywhere are needed. We are searching for students that have knowledge and experience in structural designing, programming, electrical engineering, robotics and control, human machine interaction, and many more. Moreover, for a team to fully function, we would also need students that have artistic skills and talented in public relations.

Chih-Yu: But most importantly, everyone that wants to join the team should be very passionate and motivated about developing an exoskeleton and can invest time in the club to achieve the goal. More information about the open job positions can be found at www.tum-dash.de.

 

About the project

In this students seminar you will develop the first prototype of an exoskeleton in an interdisciplinary team. To master this complex task, four chairs at TUM School of Engineering and Design have joined forces: the Chair of Applied Mechanics, the Chair of Ergonomics, the Chair of Carbon Composites and the Chair for Product Development and Lightweight Design. In regular project meetings the groups of the chairs synchronize and learn important skills regarding project organization and teamwork.

Project description and distribution of tasks

 

Project Seminar Team ExoskeleTUM

You are studying Mechanical Engineering at the TU Munich and are at least in the fifth semester? Then apply now and become part of a project seminar team! Send your application (CV, short letter of motivation and current transcript of grades) with indication of priorities and your matriculation number to the Center for Key Competencies: projektseminar-mw.zsk@ed.tum.de.


Students Team DASH

You think exoskeletons is an exciting topic? And you would like to remain part of the team after the end of your project seminar? Or are you studying other disciplines such as computer science, engineering or natural sciences or economics in your bachelor's from the 5th semester on or in your master's that do not include a project seminar in the curriculum? Become part of the students team DASH and push the development on a voluntary basis. DASH is fully synchronized with the work of the project seminar teams and offers a wide variety of positions: whether as a project, team or operations manager, engineer for embedded systems, joint control or frame design, IT specialist or public relations responsible. The application form with all currently open positions can be found here