Seniors Rachelle Aekins and Shaniel Bowen Develop Rehabilitative Sit to Stand Device

A recent article in the UConn School of Engineering has highlighted the capstone design project of two BME seniors, Rachelle Aekins and Shaniel Bowen. 

Corporate sponsors helped many of the 160 projects on display at last Friday’s Senior Design Day. But one, a device to help disabled people to stand, was inspired by a handwritten note from a desperate mother.

Last year, Dr. Krystyna Gielo-Perczak (Department of Biomedical Engineering) and Dr. Shalabh Gupta (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) received a note from a Connecticut woman  about her daughter, a UConn alumnus who was paralyzed on her left side after a car accident. The woman asked if their students would be able to design some kind of equipment that would help her daughter stand up and even walk.

So for the last year, their students  – Rachelle Aekins (BME), Shaniel Bowen (BME), Evita Vigante (ECE) and James Yee (ECE) – got to work on a common project that they called the “Compact Sit -to- Stand Device,” a rehabilitation device designed to assist people who suffer from weakened or injured lower limbs. The object of the device is to help the user just enough that they still have to use their own muscles, and with repeated use, it helps strengthen the muscles and improve coordination. The base of the design is a lift jack that includes various electrical components to lift a patient from sitting to standing. The students used musculoskeletal modeling and computer-aided design to hone the device.

Evita Vigante fielded questions from passers-by in Gampel. A key to the design’s success, she said, is affordability.

“We would like to see this device go for somewhere around $200 to $300,” she said. When it could actually get to market, she said, is hard to tell. Because it’s such a new concept, she said, the FDA testing process would be necessarily comprehensive and could take a few years.

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