Treadmills, wind tunnels aid UH researchers in robotics innovation

September 14, 2004

HOUSTON, Sept. 15, 2004 - From healthcare to helicopters, University of Houston engineers bring innovations in robotics to an international conference held in Houston this year.

The 14th International Symposium on Measurement and Control in Robotics (ISMCR) aims to gather high-quality, original contributions in the robotics field, as well as assess the most recent developments in this very scientific and technological area. Held last year in Madrid, Spain, the symposium this year convenes at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Sept. 16-18. The University of Houston will be well represented by two groups from its Cullen College of Engineering (CCoE) and College of Technology (COT) in the "Advanced Control" sessions during the first day of presentations.

In the first "Advanced Control" session from 3 to 4:15 p.m., a team of UH researchers from its engineering and technology colleges will present a paper titled "Exercise Machine Controller Design." This project seeks to promote neuromuscular health and improve the quality of life of older adults and people with disabilities by targeting individual musculoskeletal rehabilitation needs.

"We do this through design, development and testing of a prototype expert-based variable resistance/assistance (EVRA) exercise machine that removes the shortcomings found in the currently available constant resistance and other variable resistance exercise machines," said Heidar A. Malki, a professor in the COT's engineering technology department. "Expert-based exercise prescriptions are incorporated into EVRA and high-precision electric motors are computer-controlled to smoothly and safely create arbitrary force profiles, resulting from a patient-specific biomechanical analysis or from prescribed non-resistance exercise."

In addition to Malki, the paper is co-authored by Seshu Motamarri, an engineering graduate student in the CCoE's electrical and computer engineering department; Enrique Barbieri, a professor and chair of the COT's engineering technology department; and Earl J. Charlson, a professor in the CCoE's electrical and computer engineering department.

In the second "Advanced Control" session from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m., a team of UH researchers from its engineering college will present a paper titled "A Neural Network-Based Approach for Control of Vibration in a Black Hawk Helicopter." Addressing the issue of vibration control in helicopters, the data in this project was collected during wind tunnel testing of a Black Hawk (UH-60A) rotor at the NASA Ames Research Center, resulting in a significant reduction in vibrations.

"Control of vibration in helicopters is a critical issue because vibration in the main rotor causes structural fatigue of critical components," Malki said. "This can cause the ride quality to be degraded, as well as compromises the overall system reliability, thereby increasing the rate of accidents."

Again, in addition to Malki, the paper is co-authored by Jose I. Canelon, a doctoral student in the CCoE's electrical and computer engineering department, and Leang S. Shieh, a professor in the CCoE's electrical and computer engineering department.

The scope of ISMCR covers a broad spectrum of disciplines that includes work in advanced conceptual design and methodology, sensors, actuators, instrumentation, real-time control algorithms and innovative robotics applications. This conference and the field of robotics bring together researchers from different specialties who contribute to provide a full picture of the state-of-the-art research and applications in this area.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

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