20 January 2012
Industry award supports life-changing research
Bringing mobility to amputees and paralysis or stroke victims is a key goal for Manufacturing Skills Australia's Innovation Award winner, Dr Gita Pendharkar.
Gita Pendharkar receives her award from Megan Lilly, Chair of MSA.
Dr Pendharkar, a teacher in RMIT University's School of Engineering TAFE, is also hoping to contribute to anchoring emerging robotic technologies in Australian industry.
The MSA Innovation Award aims to extend the capability and performance of the Australian manufacturing industry by providing an opportunity to gather international intelligence.
Dr Pendharkar's award will allow her to travel to the University of Delaware and Johns Hopkins University in the USA - currently the research leaders in robotic exoskeleton and brain computer interface used in biomedical engineering.
On her return, she will incorporate her findings into work being conducted at RMIT's Advanced Manufacturing Precinct, in collaboration with industry partners.
Her passion for biomedical engineering grew from her PhD research where she used sensor technology used to assess the gait of "toe-walking children".
As part of her research, Dr Pendharkar designed and developed a "Gait Assessment System", an electronic device that could be incorporated into a shoe and used remotely to assess and monitor walking patterns.
This opened the possibility for using sensing technology in a wide range of medical applications.
Winning the award will give her the opportunity to examine how sensing techniques can be used in the development of robotic exoskeleton and prosthetics, and the sophisticated control and co-ordination techniques that are required.
"There are many potential applications of this technology," she said.
"It has the potential for use in assessing and monitoring patient health as well as medical training and surgery.
"With so many people on our hospital waiting lists, it can make a real impact to people's access to treatment and can even be used at home or remotely.
"If patients are trained properly to use intelligent robotic devices or systems, the impact could be as great as independent living and reduction of the burden on nursing homes and rehabilitation centres."
As well as looking at the technology development aspects, Dr Pendharkar will be assessing what would be required to be able to manufacture and commercialise the technology in Australia.