The start of a new month also means a new newsletter. And this time this newsletter is even written by a new team. Last month we’ve shortly introduced ourselves to you, but from November on the baton is definitively passed on to us. In September we’ve started with our brandnew design and time is flying! Therefore, this newsletter is full all the new developments that have been going on concerning our project. We would like to invite you to take a look at our last month.
We hope you have just as much fun reading this newsletter as we had while writing it.
Robbert de Lange & Magali Ponds.
Meet our Pilot
In week 42 Project MARCH has introduced her third team to friends and family. Amongst them was our newest teammember, our pilot: Sjaan Quirijns. She will be the follow-up of Ruben de Sain, the pilot of MARCH II. As pilot of team Project MARCH it is very important to be in excellent physical condition. Fortunately, that is no problem at all with Sjaan. Ever since Sjaan was diagnosed with a T9 lesion after a sporting accident, she hasn't been sitting still. She got in touch with a whole new world of sports, in which she turned out to be more than successful!
She participated in the World Championship adapted rowing, became Dutch champion indoor and climbed both the Alp d’Huez and the Kautertale Gletscherstraße in the same week on her handbike! But besides sporting, Sjaan has a variety of other hobbies. Watching a movie in the cinema might be her number one leisure.
In daily life Sjaan works fulltime at the Hogeschool Utrecht as functional manager. Her experience with working with different target groups comes in handy during our project. Since Project MARCH works with co-creation, the cooperation between team and pilot is central. Our design is closely adjusted to the feedback of our pilot, Sjaan, in order to achieve the best final result possible: An exoskeleton that is user friendly in daily life practice and hopefully the future replacement of the wheelchair.
Science for Humanity On sunday the 15th of Ocotobre Project MARCH participated in the Science for Humanity event. This day was meant for future companies, organisations and intitutions to present their newest technologies to both professionals and the large audience. By giving two ‚Tech Talks’ and holding a stand, Project MARCH showed the visitors what our project is all about and what we managed to achieve over the past years.
Open days TU Delft On friday the 20th and monday the 23th of octobre the Open Days of the TU Delft took place. For the TU Delft these days were, of course, all about recruiting possible new students. To illustrate them the possible applications of technical studies, Project MARCH was represented at the faculties of Industrial Design Engineering and Electrotechnique, Mathematics and Informatics.
D:DREAM Innovation Awards Friday Project MARCH won the first price in the D:DREAM Innovation Awards! This award is created to reward and stimulate innovation amongst Dreamteams in the D:DREAMhall of the @Technische Universiteit Delft. By receiving this price we can now call ourselves the most innovative Dreamteam. Especially with regard to our social impact and technical contribution in the field of exoskeletons, Project MARCH has made the difference. Therefore, we are very happy and very proud to receive this title. This reward stimulates us to continue our work and #MARCHon.
Events November is for the team of Project MARCH a month full of events. Our agenda is fully booked with a large amount of events. Please find an overview of our programme for the next month below.
8 november Carrieredag VU Bewegingswetenschappen
9 november Dutch Congress of Rehabilition Medicine (DCRM)
10 november Congres 'Verder in Beweging'
14 november Hi-tech dag ministerie van VWS
15 november Precisiebeurs
16 november Precisiebeurs
18 november Personeelsdag faculteit 3ME TU Delft
23 november Haegsche Lobby
24 november Talentevent
25 november Talentevent
We would like to invite you to visit us at these events, so we can answer all your questions in person. For more information about the events, you can take a look at our website.
Thursday the 10th over november we will launch our first social media campaign: „Why MARCH?“. In which the question: „Why do you believe in the exoskeleton?“ is central. Every week the floor will be given to a new ambassador of the exoskeleton and more specific: Project MARCH. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Linked-in and Twitter and keep an eye on our channels.
Last month was not only our last month, but mostly also our most important month. We trained a lot with Ruben and by means of this we kept optimising the MARCH II until the end in order to be completely ready for the last even of our year: the Cybathlon Experience. Here, we were able to test ourselves and our design and besides, we could show to the rest of the world what we achieved in one year time. We are proud of the end result! Not only did we achieve our goal generously, we also surpassed our own expectations. Maybe you followed our vlogs during the week, maybe not. In any event, you can find a complete overview of what the week was like, so that you can enjoy this successful and unforgettable closure of a fantastic year one last time, together with us!
Sunday 1 October On Sunday it was time for the very last preparations for departure. Almost the whole workspace was packed into crates and boxes and put into the van to make sure we would be able to keep working in Düsseldorf, in case this would be needed. After also the MARCH II had been put safely into the van, we were completely ready to depart the next morning!
Vlog 1 - Packing
Monday 2 October On Monday it was finally time: the departure to Düsseldorf! After a prosperous car ride we arrived at our hostel in the afternoon. After all stuff was unloaded, it was time to explore the city. We had a nice evening, after which everybody went to bed on time, since we would leave the next morning for the Messe for our Tech-check early.
Vlog 2 - Departure
Tuesday 3 October On Tuesday, we went to the Messe for the first time and we were able to explore the track together with Ruben. Besides, we had our Tech-check, during which we had to complete all obstacles to check if the MARCH II satisfied all safety requirements. After some small adjustments to the emergency button and the placement of the crutch on Ruben's body while doing the stairs and the ramp, we passed this check successfully and we finished the day with a promising training on the track.
Vlog 3 - Tech-check
Wednesday 4 October On Wednesday it was finally time: our first racing day of the Cybathlon Experience! During all three races we decided to skip the ramp to make sure to set a good time and a good score and we succeeded in this. At the end of the day, we were able to train the slope and door with Ruben, so that we were well prepared for the second racing day.
Vlog 4 - First racing day
Thursday 5 October On Thursday we had our second racing day and this one also went well. To be sure to complete the ramp and door this day successful, we decided to go for three of the four obstacles again and leave both the stairs and the rough terrain out for once. It turnt out to be a good choice to focus on the slope, since this obstacle went faster and faster during the day and this was promising for the third racing day.
Vlog 5 - Second racing day
Friday 6 October On Friday it turnt out that we made a good choice by bringing our workspace to Düsseldorf. To make sure we would succeed in completing all four obstacles in time, we decided to make an adjustment to the MARCH II. We made a complete new input device and we printed a new handle with the 3D printer. We decided to move the input device from the right crutch to the left crutch, so that Ruben didn't had to change his crutches impractically during the race and with this we hoped to win time. In order to be allowed to use this new input device during our last racing day, we had to do an extra Tech-check, which was completed successfully.
Vlog 6 - Third racing day
Saturday 7 October Saturday was our very last racing day and on this day it had to happen: completing all obstacles within the 8 minutes of the race. This day we had not three but four races on the planning. The new input device turnt out to be a succes, because during the third race we achieved our goal: Ruben completed all obstacles with a time of 7 minutes and 30 seconds. When we thought it couldn't go any better, Ruben proved us wrong and during the very last race he surpassed our expectations: he completed all four obstacles successfully again and this time it was even below a time of 7 minutes! With this we even became second in the final ranking. We are very proud of this results and with a concluding dinner in Düsseldorf to celebrate our success, we concluded a very successful week in a very successful way!
Vlog 7 - Last racing day
More footage During the whole week we gathered, besides vlogs, a lot more footage of course. You can find this on our Flickr account and of course also on our website. Take a look!
Thank you! After this successful end result, which we will enjoy for a long time, the moment is here for us to definitively hand the baton to the new team. We look back at a fantastic year, during which we achieved our goal, learned a lot and most of all also had a lot of fun together. We would like to thank you for all your support and enthusiasm the past year. Besides, we would like to ask you to keep following Project MARCH, as this was only the beginning of course! The new team will continue this upward trend and we are completely confident that we, as Project MARCH, will come closer and closer to our vision: to give back full mobility to people with a spinal cord injury.
Let's meet! Having participated in the Cybathlon competition, the year of team Project MARCH 2016-2017 has come to an end. This also means that a new team, consisting out of eightteen enthousiastic students, has been recruited for the new year. All these students will devote themselves to one shared goal: Develop and built an even more innovative and versatile exoskelleton than the MARCH II. In august we started our year as new team, and time is flying: The first nine weeks are already behind us! Fortunately, the foundation for a new exoskelleton has been layed and we look forward to the rest of our year, in which we hopefully will be just as succesful as our predecessors.
Last Thursday the moment was there: the reveal of the MARCH II! Last month we did a lot of preparations to make sure everything would go perfectly on the day itself. We are looking back at a very successful day with a press moment in the morning and a special reveal for our partners, family and friends in the evening. Besides the reveal, we also continued with training for the Cybathlon Experience of course, which will take place in one month already. In this newsletter you will find everything you want to know about our progress of last month!
Press moment On the morning of Thursday the 31st of August, we revealed the MARCH II to the press for the first time. The press moment took place in the Dreamhall. Ruben took the first official steps and this attracted the attention of a lot of different media and we even appeared on the Dutch news! We really like the fact that there are so many positive reactions on our project and we are very happy to share our vision with more and more people everyday. Most of the publication with regard to our reveal can be found on our website (most of them are in Dutch).
Evening presentation In the evening we invited our partners, family and friends personally to witness the reveal. The evening was led by Donald, who told about our goal and vision but also about the challenges we encountered during the year. After that a lot of excitement was built up by means of the video below, which sums up our year, with the incredible moment of Ruben walking up the stage in the MARCH II. This was the moment when we and the audience got goose bumps. The complete presentation can be watched back via this link. The evening was ended with some drinks, during which we talked extensively to our partners, family and friends. All in all it was an unforgettable evening and we are very satisfied. From now on we can start preparing for the competition!
The reveal of the MARCH II
Walking up the stairs During the reveal, we showed to the world that we are able to walk with the exoskeleton. The upcoming month we will train for the other obstacles. Last Sunday, we traveled to Nijmegen to practice the stairs with Ruben for the first time. We built this obstacle ourselves with the same dimensions as the stairs of the Cybathlon Experience. This was a success, it went well the first time already. In the video you see Ruben climbing the first step and this went quite smooth. Of course, there is room for improvement especially when he steps down, as this was a bit too fast this time. This means that Software & Control has a point of improvement for the next training. The training was evaluated while enjoying a hamburger in the McDonald's. During the next training we will also try to go up and down the slope.
Training - Stairs
Start new team
While we are working hard on all the preparations and training for the Cybathlon Experience, a new team has started at the 14th of August, consisting of no less than 18 enthusiastic full-timers! In the last few weeks, they got to know Project MARCH, determine their own team structure and made their annual planning! The upcoming weeks, they will work on their High Level Concept. We wish them a lot of success and fun while developing the exoskeleton!
Did you know... ... most of us started their master study this Monday and thus have to study besides doing MARCH this last month? ... our reveal video have been watched 15.000 times already? ... around 2 million people saw the item about Project MARCH on the Dutch news during the news of 8 o'clock last Thursday? For three days we also appeared on the frontpage of the NOS app!
Coming month Coming month we will keep training intensively and we will practice all obstacles of the competition and keep repeating them until the competition! Besides, we will transfer more and more tasks to the new team, so that they can take over completely after our competition.
During the month July we have worked really hard and therefore we can tell you proudly that we achieved a lot of milestones. Despite the fact that we want to keep the final design of the MARCH II a secret until our reveal on the 31st of August (more about this later), we will give you an update on our most important achievements of last month.
Cybathlon Experience As most of you probably already know we will participate in a competition at the end of our year with Ruben as our pilot. In this video Ericka and Marise tell you everything about this competition and our preparations for this competition!
Assembly On Thursday the 27th of July, it was finally time: the assembly of the MARCH II! After all separate parts were assembled first, we were able to build the whole exoskeleton by means of all these components. We keep the images a secret for now, but we can tell you she looks even more beautiful in reality!
Air gait On Monday the 31st of July we achieved a second milestone, namely a successful air gat. This means that the exoskeleton is mounted on a special testing cage (as shown on the picture) and that it will execute the programmed gait for the first time in the air. By means of the air gait it can be checked if all software and electronics is valid and if the whole exoskeleton functions well and is able to execute the right movements. This is of course a requirement before an actual person will go into the exoskeleton.
Training with team members In order to be sure the exoskeleton also functions well with someone in it and thus is safe enough for Ruben, we first started with some training during which team members went into the exoskeleton. Last week both Xander and Gijs stood up successfully with the MARCH II. They are the only ones in the team with the same leg lengths as Ruben. Thanks to this kind of training all software could be checked carefully and we were also able to practice critical situations that could occur during a training with Ruben. In this way we were able to prepare well beforehand.
First training with Ruben On Tuesday the 8th of August it was finally time: our first training with Ruben! It was really exciting to see Ruben in our own exoskeleton for the first time. Although at first not everything worked out as planned, we succeeded and were able to stand up with Ruben in the MARCH II. This was of course the biggest milestone until then and it means at the same time that the training period with Ruben has officially started. This is really motivating for the whole team and we are really looking forward to all milestones that will follow!
MARCH around the world Although we will be working very hard during the whole summer vacation in order to achieve a fantastic result during the Cybathlon Experience, everybody is also going on a holiday. On holiday Project MARCH is not forgotten: at this moment we are working on a really nice "MARCH around the world" photo series, which will appear on our social media channels after the vacation.
Did you know... ... the new team will go full-time from next Monday and that this means there will be two MARCH teams active at the same time until the Cybathlon Experience?
... we used four different cameras during the first training with Ruben? Two to film the technical details for revision afterwards, one to shoot nice pictures and one to record video material.
... a MARCH around the world photo is already taken in 12 different countries? This will only increase from now!
Next month As already mentioned at the beginning of this newsletter, the reveal of the MARCH II will take place on Thursday the 31st of August. This is the moment on which we will finally go public with our definitive design. Until then we will be busy with the training with Ruben and the optimisation of the exoskeleton. Besides, we will of course work on the necessary preparations for the reveal and the Cybathlon Experience, that were already started with last month. Above all, keep an eye on our social media channels!
Last month the final design of almost all components of the exoskeleton were determined and prepared for production. At this moment, these components are being produced at full power, both in-house as at some of our partners. This also means the moment at which we can start with the assembly of the exoskeleton comes closer and closer! In this newsletter you can read more about our progress.
Cybathlon Experience Another thing that is coming closer, is the competition at the end of our year of course. By means of this newsletter we would like to tell you more about this competition. This year there will be no Cybathlon in Zürich, since this competition will be held every four years, just like the Olympic Games. Instead, there will be a spin-off of the Cybathlon, namely the Cybathlon Experience. This competition will be part of Rehacare, an international fair that is focused on rehabilitation and care, which will take place in Düsseldorf from the 4th to the 7th of October. The idea behind the Cybathlon Experience will be the same as the real Cybathlon. However, the track will consist of four obstacles and there will be a new obstacle compared to the competition in Zürich. At this moment, we are working on a video in which we explain all these obstacles separately, so you can expect this video very soon for more explanation!
As told in the previous newsletter, last month a new department was established which is responsible for the ankles of the exoskeleton. In a very short time they completed all steps of the design process and a design for the ankles was created. The final design consists of a rigid ankle with an insole, which is produced especially for Ruben. They also chose a swappable connector, which is shown in the image. This connector forms the connection between the ankle and the lower leg. It is, as the name already suggests, swappable, which makes it possible to try out different positions.
One of the components that is being produced at this moment is the hip structure. This is a part of frame and it is designed so that all of support surfaces of the human being guide the shape of this component. Due to this reason we chose a triangular structure.
Furthermore, the hip structure is the connection between the legs of the exoskeleton, making it very important that this part is stiff enough. In addition, this component will also be the largest part to be milled. The first image shows the CAD model of the hip structure, and the second image shows the block of aluminium, from where the shape is created. In addition to the hip structure, the rest of the frame, including the upper and lower leg bones, went into production.
First joint tests Also the first tests with the first iteration of the joint took place with regard to position and velocity control. After that it’s time for the real deal: the testing of the moment of force the joint can deliver, and with that the force it can provide. For this we make use of dumbbells.
In this way, we are able to attach different weights to the set-up and with that we can measure the exact moment of force the joint can deliver. When the second and last iteration of the joint arrives, we will be able to start testing in an efficient way immediately. Footage of the very first test can be found here.
We also started with the production of the cable assembly of the exoskeleton, which means that we are putting together all different electronic cables needed in the exoskeleton. First, the whole cable assembly was modelled in CATIA to be able to determine how much wiring is exactly required. Subsequently, this cable assembly is now actually being made, so that it only has to be connected to the exoskeleton once all other parts are in.
MARCH rice table
Besides all the hard work, it is of course also very important to keep doing team activities. Therefore, we had a big dinner last Friday together with both the previous, the current and the next team of Project MARCH. Some team members have worked really hard in the kitchen to prepare a delicious rice table.
From streaky belly to Indonesian rendang, nothing was absent during this culinary evening. It was really fun to have all three MARCH teams together and it was the perfect moment for everybody to get to know each other and to give the rest an extensive update about the progress of the MARCH II!
Did you know...
... the MARCH II has over 200 wires with a total length of more than 38 meters? ... our team manager designed special holders for our info folders and our business cards and produced them by 3D printing? In this way we will have an even better appearance at coming events!
... since last month team members are cooking at the Dreamhall every day? In this way we can both eat together in a relaxed atmosphere and accomplish some work even after dinner!
Coming month Coming month all produced parts will come in and we hope that we are able to work towards the air gait, which is planned for the end of July, in a successful way. Furthermore, most of us will alternately go on a short holiday for a week, so that all of us can work extra hard on the project after that.
Last month we didn't sit still at all and that noticeable! Various components went into production and some of them are already in. Furthermore, all departments are increasingly focussing on the detailed engineering and the exoskeleton is taking more and more shape. Also a lot of events took place last month. In this extra long newsletter we will give you an update on all progress!
Secrets of Superhero Science
On the 7th June, during the International Festival of Technology, the very first symposium on Superhero Science took place in the auditorium. During this symposium the current technological developments were being compared with superhero technologies and by means of this it was considered how far we actually are from creating real superpowers and how desirable this is in the end. We also gave a presentation here during which we discussed the similarities, but most of all the differences between our exoskeleton and the iron man suit. It was a very successful and interesting afternoon!
Alumni Lustrum Event
On the 9th of June, in honor of the 175th anniversary of the Delft University of Technology, the Technology for Life Symposium took place. This symposium was especially organized for alumni of the university to inform them of everything that is happening here at the moment. We also got the chance to share our story with them, which was really interesting!
Naturalis After Dark x TU Delft On the 1st of June the Naturalis After Dark event took place on location for the first time, namely at the Delft University of Technology! This is a live science talkshow, during which different speakers gave a presentation about the theme 'How to save the world with technology'. We participated here in a short interview and we introduced the visitors to the technology of exoskeletons by means of the MARCH I!
Introducing: team ankle
Now that the knee and hip joints of the exoskeleton are taking more and more shape, it is time to start focussing on the last part of the exoskeleton: the ankles. In order to do so, a new department was established again, consisting of team members of the HMI department and the joint department. Last month they made the first important choices and soon they will finish the design of the ankles!
The first iteration of the homemade joint design came in last week, after which we immediately started to assembly all separate components. This means that we also started with the testing of this first joint. The results can subsequently be used for the optimization of the second iteration, which will go into production coming month and will form the final version of the joints.
Detailed engineering frame The frame department also made a lot of progress this month. The detailed engineering of the design of the frame is currently under way and by using CATIA it is possible to incorporate all these details in the design. In this way it is possible to determine the right positioning of all components. Together with the Electrical Department all electronics and all wiring are being included in the design. Also the connections between the bones and the joints are being designed. In this way a design of the exoskeleton as a whole is being developed. Coming week the definitive design of the complete frame will be finished.
Power Distribution Board Last week the Power Distribution Board (PDB) went into production. The PDB has the ability to connect to the battery of the exoskeleton and distribute the power to both the four joint motors and the electronics. It includes safety features such as an emergency switch, which can be controlled by an external button that connects to the board (black connector on the right). Moreover, the PDB is fitted with multiple sensors that monitor the power system, such as temperature, battery voltage and power usage of the motors. These are useful to check if the exoskeleton is properly functioning and also gives us valuable data during operation.
Start programming walking patterns
The Software & Control departments has started with the High-Level concept of the MARCH II in the meantime. This includes the different walking patterns and actions the exoskeleton should be able to execute once Ruben will walk in it. In this way they will make sure the MARCH II is able to receive and send out the right signals to execute the right actions subsequently.
Input device Also the design of the input design is almost finished. This is the responsibility of the Human Machine Interaction department. The idea is that the pilot controls the exoskeleton via the handle of the crutch. By placing the input device in the crutch, the pilot is always able to control the exoskeleton in a safe way. Furthermore, you see a "big hole" in the model, which is meant for the screen. On this screen it can be seen very clearly from which actions the pilot can choose to execute, such as standing up, climbing a stairs or go down. At this moment they are working on the software for this screen.
Did you know... ... we have already used 15.600 Post-its with a value of €262,48? This comes down to 1.68 eurocents per sticky!
... the motors in the MARCH II have a combined maximum power output of 8 hp (horsepower)?
... you can blow up a motor when only putting 30% of the maximum allowable amount of power trough it? We didn't.
Yesterday the documentary 'Sta Op en Loop' was broadcasted at NPO2. In this documentary the story of Claudia is told, who learns to walk again by means of an exoskeleton and starts a collaboration with the first team of Project MARCH to realize her dream even more. Together they start training for the Cybathlon, the first bionic 'Olympics'. But despite the ambitions and the dedication of everybody the reality seems to be tougher than expected. However, this somewhat cumbersome start forms the base of a very promising future. In case you missed the documentary, you can watch it here! (Note: the documentary is in Dutch)
On the occasion of the documentary, Claudia was present during Pauw at Friday the 28th of April together with Nick, the Chief Engineer of the team of last year. Here they talked about the documentary, exoskeletons in general and the collaboration between Project MARCH and Claudia. In case you missed it, you can watch the fragment here.
From the 19th until the 21th of April RoboBusiness Europe took place in the World Forum the Hague. This is one of the biggest international robotics fairs in the world. Project MARCH had a stand here too for all three days thanks to RoboValley and here we were able to introduce a lot of people to our exoskeleton. Even prince Constantijn visited our stand during this event!
Ruben starts training
Something else we started with last month is building all six obstacles we want to overcome at the end of the year with the MARCH II and Ruben as the pilot. In the meantime the slope is finished completely and this obstacle is already delivered in Nijmegen, so that Ruben can start training with it in advance with his ReWalk. In that way he can include the different obstacles in his standard walking routines, so that he can already get used to the track. Since Ruben thinks the slope is the most challenging obstacle, we placed this one in Nijmegen first. The other obstacles will be completed this month and after that they will also be brought to Ruben!
Dwarlaesie Organisatie Nederland At the 8th of April we were present at the DON-dag, which is a day full of workshops and presentations organized by the national organization for paraplegics in the Netherlands together with rehabilitation center Adelante. Here we presented our exoskeleton to a lot of people who have a spinal cord injury themselves and they learned us to move around in a wheelchair in turn, which wasn't as easy as we expected... It was really interesting to meet a lot of people on whose life an exoskeleton can have a large impact.
PCB Layout Workshop As the custom electronics get more complex in design, so does the implementation. A great amount of skill is required to properly layout a custom PCB. Henk is a PCB Layout Lead Engineer at Sintecs, one of our partners, and he specializes in layouts and routing of advanced PCBs. Last week, he was at our workshop for an entire day to teach us all the ins and outs of PCB layouting. The four of our Electrical Engineers eagerly absorbed all information that was presented that day, which was of incredible help for a proper PCB design.
Did you know... ... we will participate together with Ruben in the Wings for Life Run in Breda at the 7th of May, of which all registration fees will go to spinal cord injury research?
... we are also extending our new website? You can take a look already!
... we already started with the interviews of the application procedure for the core team for next year?
Coming month Coming month a lot of big steps will be taken with regard to the building process. The joints went into production in the meantime, it is now possible to control the motors by means of one central computer and the points of support of the frame are being optimized with feedback of Ruben. We will also go on a teamweekend to keep the team spirit high.
On Friday the 24th of March it was finally time: during our crowded design presentation we presented the new design for the first time. Furthermore, the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, Martin van Rijn, was present. He talked on stage with Ruben, the pilot of this year, and this resulted in an interesting conversation about insurances and the future perspective of exoskeletons in healthcare amongst other things. It was a very succesful evening and we want to thank everybody who was present during our presentation. In case you missed it, you can watch the whole design presentation back here!
Professors in the Theater Arena
On the 28th of March we were present with some team members during 'Professors in the Theater Arena' at Theater de Veste. During this event three professors participate in a debate about a current theme in the field of science. This time, the theme was 'The bionic human, from protheses to upgrades'. Since we match this theme pretty well as Project MARCH, we were invited to be present with the MARCH I and to give a small presentation to the public ourselves. It was a very interesting evening, during which we gained some new knowledge ourselves.
This month a lot of progress is made with regard to the feedback system. The feedback system makes sure the paraplegic that walks in the exoskeleton knows where his feet are located. He needs this feedback, since he cannot feel this himself. It was chosen to have a feedback system that makes use of vibrations on the body. In order to do so, small pressure sensors are placed under the shoe soles. When the pilot places his foot on the ground and hereby exerts pressure on the sensors, he will feel a vibration that is communicated via special components placed on his fully functional upper body.
Joint design Another point of focus this month was the designing of the joint of the exoskeleton. Much attention is paid to the compactness of the design: we want to make the joint as compact as possible. Furthermore, a high force transmission is required in order to be able to move the exoskeleton together with the pilot and to lift the toal weight. To realize this, it was chosen to make use of a Harmonic Drive. At this moment we are working hard on the construction drawings of the joint, so that the production of this component can officially start!
Tests bone structure In order to be sure the bones of the exoskeleton will be stiff enough and thus are able to carry all the weight when a person is actually walking in the exoskeleton and a lot of forces are being exerted on the bone structure, some tests are being executed first by using an external weight and two different types of aluminium bones. These two types of bones consist of a commercial produced bone and a self-produced one. By hanging different weights on these bones, the stiffness of the bone structure can be determined, just as the effect of the structure itself on this stiffness.
Motor Last month we worked hard on the motor. The motor is now able to rotate to a specific angle by means of rotate commands. By connecting more of these motors the exeskeleton will be able to perform the human gait. Furthermore, another less useful function was added: the motor is now also able to sing songs when he is runned on the right frequency of certain notes. The next step will be to make it possible to send the rotate commands via the communication lines, that will be present in the exoskeleton, so that all motors can be managed by one central computer.
Input device The input device is the system which makes it possible for the pilot to really control the exoskeleton. With this the pilot can specify what kind of action he want to perform with the exoskeleton. For additional user friendliness the input device will be placed in one of the crutch handles and it will be controlled by means of two different buttons. To determine the ideal shape of the handle and the ideal placement of the buttons on the handle, different models are used, digitally and physically. Therefore, a prototype of the handle was produced out of clay and another prototype has been printed by means of a 3D printer for example.
Did you know...
... the walls of the working space were painted MARCH blue last weekend?
... the team members of the Software & Control department themselves sometimes think it is called the Systems & Control department?
... you can earn a digital taco when you did a nice job for the team? We give out these tacos as a reward and we keep an eye on the leaderboard all the time!
Coming month This month we will officially start the building process of our exoskeleton. Besides, a lot of tests will be performed to optimize the design. Furthermore, we will be present during a lot of events, including RoboBusiness Europe, the International Robotics Week.
We are happy to inform you that our team will be strengthened by a second pilot from this moment on: Ruben de Sain! As some of you already know, Claudia, our first pilot, has not yet completely recovered from a fractured leg and therefore she will not be able to walk in an exoskeleton for now unfortunately. Therefore we had to decide to add a second pilot to our team. Ruben will help us this year to realize the MARCH II and to overcome all six obstacles of the Cybathlon. He already has a lot of experience with walking in his own exoskeleton, namely the ReWalk, and therefore he will be able to give us a lot of very helpful feedback!
Innovation for Health On the 16th of February we were present at the Innovation for Health congress that took place in the WTC of Rotterdam. Here we found some useful new contacts and Marise pitched about our project for extra sponsoring and about our ideas for the future.
Critical Minds workshop Furthermore, we had a useful workshop given by Critical Minds. They looked at our long term planning with us. The goal was to make this planning a lot more clear and visual for the whole team. In this way we are able to meet our deadlines more easily from now on! The day was ended with a nice drink together.
New department This month it was decided to establish a sixth department within the team to improve the efficiency, namely team frame. Both the mechanical and the HMI (Human Machine Interaction) department split up partly and in this way team frame was formed. This department, as the name already suggests, will focus on the design and the construction of the entire frame and the fixtures of the MARCH II.
New 3D printer Last month we received our new 3D printer, which we received from Ultimaker. Immediately, the first test models of the different components of the exoskeleton were printed by using this printer. These models are used to test these components subsequently.
Team update Last Wednesday we had a meeting with the whole team. First, we had dinner with everybody in the Dreamhall. Thereafter, each department gave a detailed update of their progress and some general topics were discussed. This meeting was very useful and helped to make sure the whole team is still on the same page.
Design Presentatie and Martin van Rijn As you all now, our design presentation will take place on the 24th of March in the auditorium of the Delft University of Technology. Last week you all received the invitation by mail, but to make sure, here is the link of the registration form once more:http://projectmarch.nl/en/march/design-presentation! Make sure you sign up yourself, since you don't want to miss this event!
Furthermore, this week we received the news that Martin van Rijn, the State Secretary of Public Health, has accepted our invitation to be present at our design presentation and he will also open the presentation by means of a short presentation!
Did you know...
... the TED Talk of our team manager gave at TEDxSittardGeleen is now online and can be found on YouTube ?
... ten different nationalities are represented within our team?
... we passed the 1500 likes on Facebook in the meantime?
Upcoming month This month we will mainly finish the design of the MARCH II and prepare the last important things for the design presentation, so that we can experience one of the first highlights of this year with all of you on the 24th of March!
Save the Date To get straight to the point: the date of our design presentation has been set! Write down the following date: the 24th of March! From 20:00 on we will reveal our new design by means of a presentation in the auditorium of the Delft University of Technology. The official invitation for this event will be sent to you in a couple of weeks, but in this way we want to invite you to be present at our design presentation already!
TEDxSittardGeleen Last Friday two team members were present at TEDxSittardGeleen, because our team manager was a speaker at this event. He had the chance to give a TED talk here on behalf of Project MARCH for an audience consisting of 200 people! In total, 22 speakers gave a talk on this day, all of them with a personal and very inspiring story. The theme of the event was Be Bright Together, something we did for sure. It was a successful day and we were able to share ideas with other people and to tell our own story. All talks that were given on this day were recorded, so keep an eye on our Social Media channels, since the talk of our team manager will be put on there! In this way everybody is able to see and hear this presentation.
Testing the Feedback System In the meantime we started testing the chosen concepts for the feedback system, that is placed in the crutches. By means of an input device the pilot is able to control the exoskeleton. Next to this, a good feedback system is necessary, so that the pilot knows which leg is moving and when the step or action is completely finished. In this way it is no longer necessary for the pilot to look down the whole time, he or she can look forward during walking in the exoskeleton. Last Monday six team members travelled to the Sint Maartenskliniek to test the four different concepts with two different pilots. The outcome of these tests can be used subsequently to make the final choice with regard to the feedback system in the crutches.
Global positioning components Friday the 20th of January our partner Spark Design & Innovation visited us again to think along about the integral design of our exoskeleton. This time the global distribution of the components that have to be incorporated into the exoskeleton was considered along with the most effective way these components can be placed. First mockups of these components were made out of foam and after that we played along with these mockups to see how the design comes together when you have it physically in your hands instead of only on your computer.
Exams Last week and this week all students of the Delft University of Technology have (had) exams again. This means that our part-timers (and some full-timers) had to focus a lot more on their study the last two weeks than they normally do. We really hope these exams went well for everyone and we are looking forward to work on Project MARCH at full strength again from next week onwards.
Team activities This month we also had a couple of nice activities to strengthen the team bond and to preserve a good atmosphere within the team. We went to the "Oliebollen" party of Kees with a big part of the team. Kees, the workshop manager, had organized a delicious dinner for all dreamteams (including "oliebollen" and champaign) on the 12th of January followed by a very pleasant drink.
Furthermore, we had a nice evening with our own team in the Snookercafé, after we had dinner with each other in the D:Dreamhall. Here we put our precision skills to the test during a lot of pool games. It seemed that some were better than others, but that did not spoil the fun! This was again a successful evening.
Did you know... ... we have a new full time team member since January who has moved all the way from Maastricht to Delft to participate in our project?
... we are known in the D:Dreamhall as the team with the best lunches?
... we collect all funny quotes, said by team members, after which we choose a "Quote of the Week" that will be printed and put up in our offices?
The upcoming month
Apart from a lot of prototyping, the upcoming month will involve a lot of important decisions with regard to the design of our exoskeleton. In this way the final design will be completed. Furthermore the invitations for the design presentation will be sent out and we will work hard on the content of the presentation itself.