UWM engineer awarded funding to build a ‘smart’ robotic assistive arm

A UWM engineer has been awarded a three-year, $1.49 million grant for research on a robotic assistive arm that would allow users to feed themselves, open doors, pick up an object and perform other activities that are essential for independence.

Mohammad “Habib” Rahman, associate professor in the College of Engineering & Applied Science, is an expert in bio-robotics, including human-assist robots, medical robots and exoskeleton robots for rehabilitation and motion assistance.

Mohammad “Habib” Rahman,

Unlike other physical therapy devices, exoskeleton robots incorporate sensors, motors and artificial intelligence designed to help patients regain much of their former abilities.

In the funded project, Rahman is developing the prototype assistive robotic arm, equipped with a set of grippers, that could be mounted on a wheelchair or other base.

The project, funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, builds on Rahman’s participation in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program, which helps faculty and students explore commercial markets for their academic research.

Through the customer discovery phase of I-Corps, Rahman said, he interviewed people with upper/lower extremity dysfunctions to determine their needs and then refined his invention to help meet those needs.

Rahman has already designed two wearable upper-extremity exoskeleton robots for rehabilitation and a powered glove for hand and finger rehabilitation.

Making exoskeleton robotic devices affordable and more portable, Rahman said, would help patients adhere to their physical therapy regimens and experience more successful recoveries.

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