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.