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How Robots are Helping People to Walk Again

Janette Tartabini from Ekso Bionics recently spent the day at Tanglin and introduced the Junior and Senior school, and parents to EKSO NR – a robotic ekoskeleton designed to help neuro-rehab patients walk again.

What started as a Berkeley University programme, with roots in the US Army military, is now a fourth-generation medical robot used in over 15 hospitals across Singapore, with a further 800-900 EKSO robots used globally.

A qualified physiotherapist, Janette now works as a Clinical Manager for Ekso Bionics training fellow therapists on how to use the Ekso robot as a safe and effective therapy tool to help recovery from a stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury or other neurological nerve diseases.

One of the big benefits of Ekso is its ability to adapt according to the patient's different needs, whether improving strength, balance or mobility. Data captured by the robot can then be used to correct walking patterns and posture, which in turn can help speed up the rehabilitation process.

The robot provoked much discussion and curiosity amongst the different age groups when it was presented at The Moot to Juniors, a Year 10 Design and Technology lesson, with a further presentation to the wider Tanglin community at The Institute. All the students were fascinated by how the robot controlled and guided their classmates to walk, sit, stand and even squat!

‘It was cool - I’ve never seen anything like it before. I liked that we have created something that helps people.’ Arjun M (Year 6).

As well as helping the students to understand better how tech is helping to improve people’s lives, Janette also highlighted how developing a robot like Ekso requires a variety of different skill sets. She explained that there is a huge interdisciplinary team behind the Ekso robot including Mechanical, Software, Biomedical engineers, Technicians and of course Physiotherapists.

For the Juniors, the session provided students with a superb example of how science, technology, engineering and maths can be connected and applied in real life. For the Seniors, Ekso NR provided DT students with the chance to conduct research for their medical technology design project. During its final session at The Institute Ekso aided Sixth Form students with their studies of the role of robots in the field of neurobiology.




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