Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 2, Page 7 Winter 1992 No bones about it; New center meets biomechanical challenges The University's new Orthopedic and Biomechanical Engineering Center will integrate research from a variety of disciplines across campus to improve the everyday life of disabled individuals. "We are trying to reach a biomechanical understanding of the human 'machine' with the goal of alleviating orthopedic dysfunction," says Ralph Cope, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the new center. "The center will be a nucleus for research activity in this area, and we look to be synergistic with other programs and existing centers." In addition to engineering and sports science faculty and students, Cope says he expects center research projects to attract researchers from such existing units as the Center for Composite Materials, the Physical Therapy Program and the Center for Applied Science and Engineering in Rehabilitation. Examples of ongoing or anticipated research projects include improved computer analyses of videotaped body movements, modeling of muscle-bone interaction, creation of lightweight prosthetic parts and design and construction of specialized adaptive equipment. James Richards, associate professor of physical education, is assistant director. For several years, he has worked with doctors and therapists at the A.I. du Pont Institute in Wilmington to improve the gait of children with cerebral palsy, using a state-of-the-art motion analysis system in the Sports Science Laboratory. Under the auspices of the new center, a mechanical engineering graduate student is studying how the involuntary muscle contractions caused by cerebral palsy affect the long-term growth pattern of the thigh bone, or femur, preventing it from supporting the child's body weight. Another student is studying why the corrective operations on the femurs of cerebral palsy patients sometimes fail. A master's degree candidate in engineering is attempting to develop new ways that a patient with a spinal injury can interact with the outside world, using movements of his mouth and head. Still other engineering students in the Senior Design Group are working to improve data collection from the motion analysis system, designing an adjustable sink for the disabled, creating a powered umbrella for a wheelchair and developing exercise equipment for the elderly. Faculty affiliated with the center will work in close cooperation with a medical advisory panel currently made up of orthopedic surgeons from the A.I du Pont Institute and the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia and the associate medical director of the Philadelphia Geriatric Center. The panel will suggest projects and collaborate with the researchers.