Project MARCH is a student team of the TU Delft which is involved in the development of a user-friendly and versatile exoskeleton, a motorized robotic suit, that can be used to get people with a spinal cord injury to stand up and walk again. Currently, the biomedical technology for exoskeletons is in a stadium where people who are paralyzed or have poorly functioning legs are still bound to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. Project MARCH wants to change this!
The vision of Project MARCH is to improve the quality of life of people with a spinal cord injury through technology. Project MARCH wants to contribute to increasing movement possibilities through innovation, co-creation and inspiring others. To achieve this, an exoskeleton is (continuously) developed every year.
A wheelchair can be restrictive in daily life. Simple activities, such as shopping, climbing stairs or cooking are often found challenging or even impossible.
By giving back greater freedom of movement, people not only experience the practical advantages of autonomy, such as going and standing wherever he or she wants. He or she is also able to communicate with friends and family at eye level rather than being 'looked down' at. Moreover, health improves considerably. Among other things, the risk of thrombosis decreases, bones become stronger, intestinal function improves, the severity of bedsores are reduced, muscles are strengthened and overall condition increases. Dependency on health care providers and insurers declines.
The Team 2019-2020
Project MARCH is a non-profit student team consisting of 25 students from various disciplines and studies, including Industrial Design, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Clinical Technology. We are students from different academic years and volunteer for a full year to develop a user-friendly and versatile exoskeleton. In addition, we hope to learn a lot and contribute to society.
Project MARCH is a DreamTeam located in the D:DREAMHall of the Delft University of Technology. Other DreamTeams are also located here, such as Human Power Team and Ecorunner. Our team consists of a management department (Team Manager, Project Manager, Operations Manager and Chief Engineer), a Non-Tech department (PR, acquisition and finance) and a Tech department (they develop and build the actual exoskeleton).
Every new academic year, a new Project MARCH team is put together that develops and builds an exoskeleton from September up to and including the summer holidays. This year we will continue to work on the MARCH IV, the exoskeleton that was designed last year. This differs from previous years, where a new one was always made. The teams document design choices, project progress, how they dealt with problems and all other issues that arise during the academic year so that new teams can continue with the knowledge already gained. A great deal of value is placed to this transfer, because Project MARCH believes it is important that every new team can go as far as possible in developing and implementing new technology. Continuity is an important concept for us.
Project MARCH is a unique project which separates themselves from other developers in several aspects:
The unique construction; every year a new team takes on the challenge of improving the current prototype. These students put their study on hold for a year. This yearly cycle creates a team full of motivated, sharp, and innovative students.
Taking up a new challenge is a returning theme. We can see that in the attitude and qualifications of the team members, an improved prototype every year and facing the ultimate challenge at the end of the year. Every year the team test the new prototype in a competition against other exoskeletons.
The commitment of predecessors. Every year the exoskeleton of the previous team gets optimized by a new team. While doing so, the team gets a lot of consultancy from their predecessors; their knowledge and experience about their dreamteam year and the exoskeleton technology are inmensely valuable.
The focus on innovation contributes towards a product that is built around user-friendliness and fine motor skills for daily use. Commercial aspects do not limit us and this combined with a yearly cycle makes it possible to implement useful features quickly.
The co-creation with both the pilot and the Sint Maartenskliniek. Co-creation is essential for the development of the ultimate exoskeleton. The pilot and physical therapists have a lot of knowledge and experience about the paraplegic body and what could work better.
The goal of Project MARCH 2019-2020 is to win the Cybathlon in May 2020 by designing, producing and training an exoskeleton that can complete the six obstacles within 10 minutes. The Cybathlon is a competition for bionic para-athletes where commercial and academic exoskeletons compete against each other. Further information about the competition itself can be found under the heading "Cybathlon".
Project MARCH 2019-2020 wants to win this competition in 2020 so that we can rightfully call our exoskeleton the best exoskeleton in the world for a year. In this way we want to take a step towards the multi-year vision of Project MARCH and contribute to the development of pioneering biomechatronic technology.
Project MARCH focuses on building an exoskeleton for people with a complete spinal cord injury. A spinal cord injury is caused by damage to the spinal cord. This damage can have various causes, such as a fracture in the back or neck. In the spinal cord all kinds of nerves run from the brain to the tailbone. These nerves function as important communication channels for the body. They play a crucial role in controlling the muscles and sense of touch. When the spinal cord is damaged, no signals can be exchanged downwards from this location through the spinal column. A person is therefore paralyzed from this place of the damage. For our project it is very important that the pilot can make full use of his or her arms. For this reason we focus on people with paraplegia at maximum breast height.
When diagnosing paraplegia, a distinction is made between a complete and an incomplete spinal cord injury. Project MARCH focuses on the target group of people with a complete spinal cord injury, in which the damage to the spinal cord is permanent and therefore incurable.