This year has been a good one for the Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL) as they celebrated a year of quality research at their July 29th open house event.
HERL, a joint project between the University of Pittsburgh and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, strives to continuously improve the lives of people with disabilities through advances in engineering, clinical research and medical rehabilitation.
At the open house, researchers showcased their work through interactive demonstrations and tours of the research facilities. Some of the innovations featured included:
- The Mobility Enhancement Robotic Wheelchair (MEBot), a device that allows navigation over curbs and challenging terrain. The MEBot can redistribute the wheelchair’s weight to help keep it balanced when going up or down hills.
- The Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) system, a virtual reality simulator that can simulate different terrains wheelchair users may experience.
- The Strong Arm, a wheelchair attachment to help transfer users in and out of their chairs. The Strong Arm can be operated with less than 2 pounds of force, making it easier than ever before for caretakers to assist with transfers.
One group who benefits from the research at HERL are disabled veterans. The devices designed at HERL allow disabled veterans to get back to doing the things they enjoyed most before their injury.
“The veterans that are using the equipment and benefiting from these innovations can achieve a level of independence they couldn’t have before,” said Nancy Augustine, a project manager at HERL.
HERL collaborates with many different veteran and military organizations, such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and U.S. Department of Defense to exchange information on the latest research and needs of wounded soldiers.
“Veterans have been able to have their lives enriched and improved,” said Karin McGraw, director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. “They can finally play with their children again, and you can’t put a price tag on that.”