The Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) lab is a research lab at Columbia University led by Professor Sunil Agrawal. Projects in the ROAR lab aim to improve outcomes for patients with physical and neurological injuries and disorders. I joined the lab as an undergraduate research assistant soon after getting to Columbia, and stayed with the lab until graduation, including working there the summer between my junior and senior years.
My time in the lab was spent working on two projects. The first was SoleSound, “smart shoes” meant to analyze and combat gait disorders, including the shuffling and freezing gait characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. I reduced the size of the electronics packages on the dorsal and lateral sides of the shoes by converting the perfboards to PCBs. I also designed housings for the electronics in PTC Creo, 3D printed them, and wired and assembled the packages for a total of five pairs of shoes. Throughout summer 2014, I helped run trials with elderly subjects at an assisted living home in New York City’s Upper West Side.
Concurrently, I was tasked to design a position feedback device for people with poor proprioception, the target group being children with cerebral palsy. I conducted a literature review, chose and ordered components, wrote an obstacle detection and vibratory feedback program, and built the proof-of-concept on a breadboard. After I graduated, the project was taken over by a PhD student.
Working in the ROAR lab offered me the chance to see and work on groundbreaking technology close up. It nurtured my knowledge of robotics and electronics and encouraged me to pursue a career in research and development. Most importantly, it allowed me to contribute to the design of devices that may someday make life easier for people who need it the most.