Exciting times for the new team of Project MARCH! It’s already 4 months ago since I joined the team, and it’s just as long ago since I wrote my last blog. A lot has happened in the team since then, we’ve grown immensely in both size and knowledge. However, before I dive too much into my excitement of what’s happening now, I’d like to take you back to October, when the ball of the new team started rolling.
October was a great month for both the first and second team because it was the month of the Cybathlon. The Cybathlon is the first bionic games in the world, held in Zürich, where engineering teams compete to build the best bionic machine. Categories included arm and leg prostheses, powered wheelchairs, tricycles for paraplegics and, most importantly, exoskeletons. It was an amazing event full of high-tech that enabled a lot of disabled people to regain what they once lost. I was amazed at the enthusiasm of both the engineers and all the visitors, However what really surprised me during the event was the immense joy that I saw in all the participating athletes. It did not matter how well they were preforming, they all had an overwhelming support of the crowd which helped them enormously in their effort to try and overcome an obstacle. It caused them to keep trying, go beyond their expectations and even cry tears of joy when they managed to complete something that they were unable to do for years.
The Cybathlon was a real boost for me to start working on Project MARCH, because it was no longer just a paraplegic that I was going to help the coming year, it was an actual human being to which I can help regain their abilities, even if it was only momentarily, and give great mental support in daily life.
The second team was on its own after the Cybathlon, but we haven’t taken it easy so far. We’ve tripled in size from 10 members to 30, which really accelerated the progress of our project. The result over the last couple of months is clearly evident, we’ve made most of the big design choices and are currently doing a lot of prototyping. Within the electrical department we’ve focussed on a detailed architecture and feature set of both the power and communication systems. One of the devices that we are developing is a general purpose communication node. This device is designed to connect to the “nerve system” of the exoskeleton and is able to connect to numerous sensors, displays, etc. Multiple of these devices can be placed anywhere in the exoskeleton, which makes it very flexible. It also uses a communication protocol similar to internet which enables us to daisy-chain each of these devices (connecting in series instead of a separate cable per device), so there is hardly any cabling too.
Meanwhile, the focus for me as Chief Electrical Engineer has clearly shifted from a purely technical function to a more diverse role. I still do a lot of practical engineering and make big electrical decisions like I did at the start, however since the electrical team has increased in size I now also have more responsibilities regarding management, including planning, contact with
companies and team management. This combined work is something I enjoy greatly so far, and it is going very well for me due to experience that I gained during projects of my bachelor.