UArizona team developing robotic device for kids with cerebral palsy

Apr 29, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 7:52 am
(Photo provided by Northern Arizona University Biomechatronics Lab)...
(Photo provided by Northern Arizona University Biomechatronics Lab)
(Photo provided by Northern Arizona University Biomechatronics Lab)

PHOENIX — A University of Arizona researcher and his team are working to develop innovative ways to help children combat the physical limitations of cerebral palsy.

“Kids are supposed to be active, playing with their friends and really learning effective movement patterns that will allow them to be independent as they move into adulthood,” Benjamin Conner, a Ph.D. and M.D. candidate at UArizona’s College of Medicine in Phoenix., told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

He and his team are developing a fanny pack-powered robotic exoskeleton for children suffering from cerebral palsy.

“The motors in that fanny pack pull on steel cables that go all the way down to a pulley at the ankle,” Conner explained. “It’s able to assist and resist movements at the ankle while the kid walks.”

The exoskeletons are designed not to fully cooperate with the children wearing the device. Conner says the exoskeletons are equipped with a resistive feature.

“It actually makes walking a little more difficult, the idea being that it’s a therapeutic device,” Conner said.

“It’s demanding that the kids push harder when they take a step to activate their muscles at the right time … it adapts to how the kid walks. The harder they push when they take a step, the harder the exoskeleton will push back and the more it will resist.”

This enables children with cerebral palsy to train their brains, strengthen their muscles and build muscle memory.

Conner’s team has worked with cerebral palsy patients as young as 6 years old.

“Motion is medicine,” Conner said. “To be physically active is such an important part of not only physical well being but our mental well being.”

Conner hopes the exoskeleton will be further developed to eventually work on younger children and adults, and even those suffering from strokes or multiple sclerosis.

The exoskeleton is still in development and the children need to use it in the College of Medicine’s labs so that results can be properly gauged.

Eventually, he wants the children to take them wherever they walk, especially at school.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Stacey Abrams (AP file photo/Steve Helber)...

Stacey Abrams’ group wipes out medical debts for thousands in Arizona, 4 other states

A political organization led by prominent Democrat Stacey Abrams donated $1.34 million to wipe out medical debts for thousands in Arizona and four other states.
19 hours ago
Christian Solorio (Alhambra Elementary School District photo)...

Board of Supervisors appoints Christian Solorio to vacant Arizona House seat

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday appointed Christian Solorio to fill the Arizona House seat vacated by fellow Democrat Raquel Teran.
19 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/ADOT)...

Westbound Interstate 10 reopens in Chandler following crash

A crash closed westbound Interstate 10 in Chandler for about an hour on Wednesday afternoon during rush hour.
19 hours ago
(Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images)...
Danny Shapiro

Arizona Cardinals game to jam freeways Thursday evening for commuters

The Arizona Cardinals host the Green Bay Packers in the weekly Thursday night NFL game, an event that will jam metro Phoenix freeways during rush hour.
19 hours ago
(Tempe Police Department Photo/Facebook)...

Teenage boy, 2-year-old killed in wrong-way crash on Tempe street

A teenage boy and a 2-year-old girl were killed in a wrong-way crash on a Tempe street earlier this week, authorities said.
19 hours ago
Adam Scott Delk (Glendale Police Department Photo)...

Glendale police make arrest in suspected road rage shooting

Police have arrested a suspect in one of a recent spate of suspected road rage shootings in the West Valley.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
PNC Bank

3 cool tips to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for your child

Early brain development has a crucial impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five.
PNC Bank

How one organization supports early childhood literacy for the most vulnerable

Nearly two out of every three children in low-income communities don’t own a single children’s book, a fact that ultimately could have profound impacts even before entering kindergarten, according to Arizona nonprofit Southwest Human Development.
UArizona team developing robotic device for kids with cerebral palsy