The summer has officially started. While the Dreamhall is getting quieter and quieter because the races of the other teams have already started, our team is still running at full speed. Only three months to go until our race, so there is still a lot of work to be done. Because the exoskeleton is now assembled, this week will be dedicated to the first training sessions with Sjaan. Curious about our activities last month and how we will fill in our last months? Read all about it in this newsletter of July!
A happy Jitske while opening opening a new package: Pressure soles!
The exoskeleton is assembled! Last month our team worked very hard to connect all parts properly. We've been able to 'airgait' a couple of times, that is walking through the air, and Sjaan tried on the exoskeleton during the 'fitting test' for the very first time! The exoskeleton fitted really well, so time for a party. But of course a research and development project can't do everything right at once and the exoskeleton had to be disassembled a couple of times to make some final adjustments... The biggest technical challenges of each department are listed below:
- Human Machine Interaction:
- Input device: "Finding the right combination of the piece of hardware and software to make everything work together."
- Running patterns: "Designing good gaits with which Sjaan can walk well and with which we can win the competition."
- Frame: "Put everything together and react quickly to things that don't fit, so come up with solutions very quickly. In addition, the design of the covers shouldn't destroy the electronics and it has to look good, which is quite a challenge.
- Joint: "Arranging all the preparatory work for the new team (MARCH V). Everything has to be well documented down to the last detail. "
- Electrical: "All cables in the exoskeleton must be the right length and must not break."
- Software: "Estimating what software must be ready in order to be able to walk at the first training session. This is difficult to estimate because we have never had a training before."
- Balance & Control: "The piece of hardware (iMotion Cubes) that allows our engines to do what we want to integrate into the system."
In addition, there is a logistical challenge and time pressure for the entire team: tests have to be carried out in quick succession so that the exoskeleton sometimes has to be disassembled and assembled within a day. But we will succeed!
Larissa of the Frame department while putting the upper leg together
But not only has it been busy in the technical field, we have also visited several events throughout the country. We were present at ISCOMS in Groningen on the 5th of June, one of the world's largest student conferences in (bio)medical sciences, where we challenged international students to think about the user side of exoskeletons and their future during a one-and-a-half hour workshop; On 18 June we organised a theme meeting for Human Factors NL, a dynamic platform for everyone involved in interaction between people and their environment and who wants to commit to developing and disseminating knowledge about Human Factors and ergonomics in the Netherlands and abroad, about the use of exoskeletons, and on Sunday 23 June we were guests at the Oyfo Science Centre in Hengelo to inspire the new generation about technology and the combination of man and machine. We continue to love to see how students, companies, but also children think about the use of medical devices and to discuss the possibilities of the exoskeleton in the future.
During the Girls' Day of T-mobile where our MARCH ladies were role models for women in technology, we got to know T-mobile. After some nice conversations we were invited to present during the T-mobile 5G theme day on June 4. Here we looked at different possibilities to add 5G to our exoskeleton. 5G could make sure that some cleverness is taken out of the electronics of the exoskeleton. We could place this cleverness in the 'cloud', so that the calculations are performed externally and no longer in the exoskeleton. This connection between the exoskeleton and the 'cloud' could be made with 5G. This would mean that our electronics components could become smaller and lighter in the future. A lot of complicated things we have to think about!
After an exploratory talk last week, we can proudly tell you that T-mobile will help us with various communication issues in the future.
Nikki during the 5G theme day of T-mobile
But besides these serious events, it was also time for some team building activities. Last weekend our team travelled to the Sweilandpolder in Warmond, where we camped, swam, sailed, played a lot of games, but above all laughed a lot with each other. A moment of rest in between all the MARCH tension. Here are some pictures of the weekend.
Building up our tents and sailing at the 'Kaag'
Next month will be a very exciting month for the team. If everything goes according to plan and the latest tech challenges can be solved, we will be training for the first time this month for the Cybathlon with Sjaan! This means that we have to train hard, not only with Sjaan, but also with the rest of the team. Besides getting used to this new exoskeleton, the team also has to learn how to select pile-up running patterns during training, how to adjust them live and how to save the resulting data. To ensure that all this is done in the right way, a training team has been set up with two coaches and three training leads who are going to think about which obstacles are going to be encountered during each training session, how long the training can be done and which team members are needed for this. With the new software this year the running patterns can be easily adjusted between trainings and even during the trainings themselves. Gait specialist Bente will be busy in the near future to find the perfect running patterns to be able to pass the obstacles of the Cybathlon.
In addition to the training courses, the Partnerships and PR department is preparing for the unveiling event of the new exoskeleton, the Reveal. This event will take place on Tuesday 13 August in the afternoon. During this day, we will show our exoskeleton for the first time to the outside world, both to the press and to guests. Different locations are being considered and the invitations to the press are out :).
Department of the month: Fraeme
This month we would like to put a new department in the spotlight: Larissa, Ilse, Sacha and Flores! Who are these students and what is their role in the team? Read it below.
Our Fraeme engineers Ilse, Sacha, Flores and Larissa
Larissa Mulder and Sacha Schmitter both have a background in mechanical engineering. Larissa got her bachelor's degree last summer and Sacha is now finishing his bachelor's degree. Flores Germonpré has her bachelor degree in Aerospace Engineering and Ilse Calis has her bachelor in Industrial Design. Together they form the Fraeme department of our team.
Fraeme... That doesn't seem to be entirely correct english. You are right. Fraeme is a combination of frame and aesthetics. This department is concerned with both the bone structure of the exoskeleton as well as the appearance. In the technical world, the importance of aesthetics is sometimes overlooked, but we believe that, certainly for medical applications, this is just as important as the technology itself. Think about it, would you dare to walk with an exoskeleton that looks as if it could collapse at any moment? Probably not. To make our design look solid and reliable, we have Ilse in this department who thinks about what shapes and colours should be used in the exoskeleton.
But of course the exoskeleton and the bone structure also have to be strong enough to be able to wear Sjaan. On the other hand, smaller is almost always better, so last year this team also researched how the bones can be smaller and lighter. This year they opted for a simplistic, modular design, consisting of several parts that can be clicked together. Handy! Because in this way, different pieces of bone can be replaced each time. In addition, this year they have chosen to experiment with a new material: carbon fibre. This material will be used for a number of fixtures, these are the parts of the exoskeleton that connect to the body of our pilot. The advantage of carbon fibre is that it is a very light-weight material, but at the same time very strong. However, the production of this material is a challenge, you have to build it up carefully layer by layer, then inject it with resin and then let it harden. Because we didn't have much experience with this, the team visited partner Fokker last month, to produce all the parts themselves. See below how that worked.
The step-by-step plan of producing the lower leg fixtures at Fokker
The design of the covers is still in the planning stage and the test phase with the exoskeleton. We are very proud of these top products! Next week in meet the team: Balance and Control.