Kansas Scientist Wins A Grant For Work In Prostheses

By KBBE News
April 13, 2017

Zheng Chen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Wichita State's College of Engineering, has been named a National Science Foundation CAREER Grant Award winner.

Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program grants are the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their organizations.

Chen received a $500,000, five-year NSF CAREER Award for his project "Artificial Muscle Based on Dielectric Elastomers for Dexterous and Compliant Prostheses," which will begin this May.

The ultimate goal of the project is to achieve dexterous, lightweight and energy-efficient prostheses using DE-based artificial muscles, in contrast to the heavy and inefficient electric motors of the current generation of robotic arms.

The project incorporates aspects of bio-inspired design, device fabrication and dynamic modeling, sensing and control. The success of this project will help provide affordable, reliable and comfortable prostheses to the estimated 2 million military veterans and civilians who have lost hands, arms or legs to accidents, natural disasters, wars, diseases or aging. This project will also train the next-generation workforce with skills in the dynamic modeling, control and fabrication of devices based on smart materials and structures.

"Dr. Chen's novel approach to artificial muscles has significant potential to help populations who have suffered the loss of a limb due to trauma, infection, diabetes or other diseases," said Jan Twomey, associate dean for graduate studies, research and faculty success in the College of Engineering.

This is the fourth CAREER Award winner in four years for the WSU College of Engineering.

In 2016, Esra Buyuktahtakιn received a $500,000 CAREER Award for her project "CAREER: Dynamic Invasive Species Control Optimization Via Integrated Education and Research (DISCOVER)." The goal of the research is to provide models that inform public policy decisions regarding management of resources to protect ecological systems from invasive species. The research involves mathematical modeling, optimization, game theory and uncertainty management.

In 2014, Pingfeng Wang, an assistant professor in industrial engineering and manufacturing, was awarded a $400,000 CAREER grant award for his investigation, "Designing Engineering Systems for Resilience and Sustainability by Considering Post-design Retrofits." The research applies to how to prevent failure of engineering systems and products such as airplanes and wind turbines through repairs and upgrades that ensure sustainability.

Also in 2014, Animesh Chakravarthy, assistant professor in aerospace and electrical engineering and computer science, received a $400,000 CAREER award for his investigation, "Generalizations in Obstacle Avoidance Theory." The research is intended to allow ground and underwater autonomous vehicles (drones) to navigate in swarms without colliding with one another.