Watch: Robotics help kids walk again

Date:2 August 2022 Author: Rienk De Beer

Dr. Elena Garcia Armada, a robotics engineer from Marsi Bionics, is paving the way for some kids to take their first steps ever through the world’s first adaptive robotic exoskeleton for children, an invention that saw her pickup a European Inventor award.

The co-founder of Marsi Bionics and a PhD in robotics engineering, Dr. Elena Garcia is also a tenured scientist at the Centre for Automation and Robotics (CSIC-UPM). Her time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paved the way for her work on elastic actuation systems and dynamically stable walking robots.

Elena is a Senior Scientist at CAR and the head of her own research team. She is interested in biomimicry and uses it to build mechanical quadrupeds and legs that are inspired by biological structures, as well as artificial muscles that can produce a variety of motions.

Her research effort shifts to bionics as she starts looking at force-augmentation exoskeletons for commercial use. When the parents of 6-year-old tetraplegic Daniela payed her a visit, the field of application of her research altered. Elena devotes all of her research to the creation of exoskeletons for human gait support, with a focus on the treatment of neurological illnesses in children, after realizing the importance of walking and the lack of tools to help kids who have lost this ability.

In just three years of research, Elena and her team have successfully used all the prior knowledge about robot locomotion and biomimetics to get Daniela walking for the first time in a lab setting using the ATLAS exoskeleton. What first appeared to be the conclusion of a study project became Elena’s professional life’s goal and the aspiration of millions of families: enabling all children worldwide to walk, regardless of their diagnosis.


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