Portfolio

Upcoming Event

Grand Rounds Seminar
"The Surgeon Inventor: Collaborative Innovation"
Frank Papay, M.D.
Chair, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute
Joint appt., Head and Neck Institute
August 4, 2017

Virtual Treadmill

Client: Susan D’Andrea, PhD & NASA

Services Provided: Designed & Constructed Treadmill / Electrical / Machining / CAD / CAM Welding of Aluminum & Steel / Pneumatics.

The Prototype Lab designed and constructed an innovative treadmill that may help astronauts keep their motor skills sharp after long weightless journeys. The treadmill has two independently operated treads with actuators at each end that can raise and lower vertically, incline and decline, and change speeds. It also has a virtual reality screen that immerses the user into an environment ranging from walking down a path, stair climbing, or hiking along a curved trail. Developed as a proof of concept, the device will let astronauts simulate a walk, for example, on the Appalachian Trail, walking up and down hills, around curves and occasionally stepping over rocks and logs. Whatever happens on screen is reflected in the speed and pitch of the treadmill. The treadmill was developed to address issues related to deconditioning of the neurovestibular system in weightless environments. The neurovestibular system consists of visual (eyes and perception), vestibular (inner ear and balance) and proprioception (muscles and position) signals and helps human beings maintain their balance and stability while walking and moving on Earth. But in space, this is a problem for astronauts as they do not know up from down since gravity is negligible. This produces visual disorientation, thinking things are upside down when they are not. It also causes space motion sickness and decreased coordination. Upon returning to Earth, astronauts have balance disturbances, disorientation, and impaired coordination and locomotion. Their bodies have to readjust upon entering space and returning to Earth.