Title page for ETD etd-05082008-154758

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Burnett, Bryant Whitney Rousseau
URN etd-05082008-154758
Title Considerations for the Use of an Exoskeleton for Extremity Control and Assistance when Learning to Walk with Cerebral Palsy
Degree Master of Science
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Wicks, Alfred L. Committee Chair
Hong, Dennis W. Committee Co-Chair
Reinholtz, Charles F. Committee Member
  • cerebral palsy
  • exoskeleton
Date of Defense 2008-05-02
Availability unrestricted
Cerebral palsy is an occurrence in which the nerves and muscles if the body may function properly, but there is damage to the brain that causes it to transmit incorrect electrical impulses to the muscles including both too many and too few signals. Without the correct cohesive electrical impulses to balance the opposing muscles of a joint, normal everyday tasks that most of us take for granted become very difficult to learn and perform. As exoskeletons become more advanced and practical, their applications have a lot of room for growth. Cerebral Palsy is one portion of the medical field that can benefit from the development of exoskeletons. As demonstrated with modern rehabilitation techniques, the application of an exoskeleton has the possibility of making the learning process and performance of many tasks easier and faster for both the patient as well as the doctor working with them. However, in order to appropriately apply the technology to the need, many changes in both the controls and the actual physical design of current devices need to be addressed.

An exoskeleton for the purpose of helping cerebral palsy patients learn to walk is not limited to one specific form depending on the complexity of the tasks it is desired to assist with. However, there are a couple needs of this type of exoskeleton that are absolutely necessary. The size of the exoskeleton must be designed around the size of a child and not an adult. If the individual is learning to walk from the very beginning, the controls of the device will need to initially be able to take complete control over the individual’s limbs to exercise the motions of walking. With the nature of an exoskeleton controlling the limbs of a person instead of simply assisting with current movements, the physical attachments of the exoskeleton must be improved from current designs in order to make movements of the exoskeleton and the body more parallel. Other features such as different muscle sensing techniques may also improve performance, but are not required. An exoskeleton that can help cerebral palsy patients learn to walk can also be applied to many other rehabilitation needs.

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