NSF award for Anne Martin to reduce falls of elderly adults

September 7, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Anne Martin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to explore how aspects of the motion of walking can cause a person or bipedal robot to fall and then using her findings, develop a tool that can predict how likely a fall is to occur based on a subject’s gait.

While the research will apply to robots and humans, Martin’s hope is primarily to benefit older people.

“This work will eventually improve and prolong the quality of life of elderly adults,” Martin said. “If we can identify elderly adults at risk of falling, they could receive interventions such as physical therapy before they first fall and injure themselves.”

The research will be conducted through simulation experiments based on a model of human gait that was developed from bipedal robotic controls. A gait that carries a person successfully without falling nor expending increased amounts of energy is said to be robust. Martin will determine what contributes to decreased robustness and if increasing the duration of the double support period of gait ­–the period when both feet are on the ground– increases robustness. Using the results, she will develop a diagnostic tool to determine how likely a biped is to fall. This diagnostic tool could eventually provide clinicians with insights into how changes in walking gaits affect fall risk and allow them to incorporate those risks into the dialogue about fall prevention with their patients.

The research may also lead to improved capabilities for biped robots, which in turn could significantly increase their utility.

An educational outreach component will create an experimental activity for middle and high schoolers to introduce them to diagnostic tools and estimation.

Martin, who directs the Gait Optimization Lab at Penn State, joined the University in 2016. She was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Texas at Dallas and holds a Ph.D. and a master of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware.

 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Anne Martin

aem34@psu.edu

Anne Martin

Anne Martin prepares sensors for use on a subject. The sensors are part of a system in Martin's labe that collects data from subjects as they walk on a treadmill.

“If we can identify elderly adults at risk of falling, they could receive interventions such as physical therapy before they first fall and injure themselves.”

– Anne Martin

 
 

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The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the nation’s largest and most successful engineering departments. We serve more than 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 330 graduate students

We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S., M.Eng.) graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. MNE's strength is in offering hands-on experience in highly relevant research areas, such as energy, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems.

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