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CSULB welcomes this year’s newest addition of robotics

The Human Performance and Robotics Laboratory takes one step closer to incorporating robots into daily life.

John+Abella+demonstrates+the+use+of+a+robotic+arm+engineered+to+take+virtual+reality+one+step+further+and+replicate+human+movements+as+they+would+occur+in+a+natural+environment+5%2F7.
John Abella demonstrates the use of a robotic arm engineered to take virtual reality one step further and replicate human movements as they would occur in a natural environment 5/7.

John Abella demonstrates the use of a robotic arm engineered to take virtual reality one step further and replicate human movements as they would occur in a natural environment 5/7.

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

Hunter Lee | Daily 49er

John Abella demonstrates the use of a robotic arm engineered to take virtual reality one step further and replicate human movements as they would occur in a natural environment 5/7.

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Prosthetics, virtual reality goggles and rehabilitation therapy models were the highlights of this year’s robotics laboratory tour.

Cal State Long Beach’s Human Performance and Robotics Laboratory collaborated with campus departments and government organizations to create new inventions, which were showcased Monday in Room 115 of the Computer Science and Engineering Building.  

Engineering students work closely with professors as both parties discovered new ways to incorporate animatronics into everyday life.  Although HPRL members did not manufacture the machines, they were involved in designing them and working on their software.

Eddy Gonzalez, a senior mechanical engineering major, is working with a programming software that will help runners reduce knee pain.

“The goal of this project is to prove the hypothesis that Dr. Sharon Teng did, where if you lean forward while you run it will reduce the forces in your knees,” Gonzalez said. “It will help people with knee pain to continue running and not wear out their knees while running.”

Teng is a physical therapy assistant professor who is working with Gonzalez on the project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and will be used to help athletes on campus with rehabilitation and training.

During Teng’s rehabilitation session with athletes, she placed body markers on volunteers before they ran to track the motion of the runner as well as the weight applied to their feet. She used a motion capture program called Qualisys to retrieve data from the runners.

“They provide me with this data and my job is to grab this data and put it onto our program,” Gonzalez said. “What I’m supposed to do is use this musculoskeletal model to actually apply the forces and replicate the movement, which is what this program is meant for.”

For Maya Martinez, a biomedical engineering sophomore, her experience creating a prototype was satisfying and frustrating; having no prior knowledge of simulation, she found herself challenged by the task.

As a member of the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity program in the robotics lab, Martinez worked alongside research assistant Joaquin Martinez to create an assisted walking device for a company whose name she did not disclose.

“It’s an exoskeleton, in real life there’s a prototype on the inside of your legs [that] has a little seat, [so] you can get on it and it assists you in walking,” Maya Martinez said. “The goal of this design is to give it to elderly people so they can walk around more. It will help them. The reason we’re simulating is if we want to change different parameters of the model of the human.”

According to Maya Martinez, she was interested in the project because simulation has been appearing more frequently in the engineering sector. She spent almost an entire semester attempting to get the protocol to meet her standards.

Elliot Recinos, a graduate mechanical engineering sophomore, demonstrated a system used to receive physical feedback from a virtual environment and build off of it. 

“[It’s] putting people into environments without [them] physically being there,” Recinos said. “In a surgical setting, it would allow surgeons to get physical feedback while performing an incision. [It] can [also] be used in a classroom setting to teach students about atomic bonding.”

Everyone who had a part in working on the projects present at the robotics lab agreed unanimously on one fact: their creations were labors of love.

“It’s definitely a lot of trial and error,” Maya Martinez said. “We’re not done yet, [but] I think I would be so excited because at least it would have paid off. It could be frustrating sometimes but I’ll definitely be relieved. I think this project has helped me be able to [develop my ideas] easier.”

Many of these designs were unfinished but student engineers were optimistic about the outcomes.

Students who missed the lab exhibition have another opportunity to see the designs Wednesday at 12:10 p.m.

This story was updated May 11 at 6:51 p.m. for clarification. Those involved with the Human Performance and Robotics Laboratory designed the software featured at the event. In the featured image, John Abella was demonstrating the virtual reality simulation software with the robotic arm.

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