As the conclusion of this semester quickly approaches, a lot of my semester-long projects are nearing completion. The most important of them all is my senior design project (BME-405). We are challenged to ideate, develop, and build a device within the biomedical engineering sphere in teams of four to five students. Our group was passionate about creating a solution to alleviate poor posture, an issue that is widespread among the population.
Improper posture affects approximately 85% of people. Worsening posture can eventually lead to postural kyphosis, forward rounding of the back, and can also lead to neck and back pain. Studies have also shown that poor posture can lead to a lack of self-esteem which has lead to depression in severe cases.
Current solutions give the user a vibrational alert to slouching, but fail to provide them with detailed information to address posture issues. There is therefore a need for a safe and effective device that alerts the user to bad posture and gives the user information on the strain placed on the muscles.
Our device, which we have called “Posture Perfect”, is aimed at individuals who struggle maintaining proper posture over a prolonged period of time. This can include cubicle workers, college students, pathologists, and athletes. Our device can also be marketed to businesses such as those owned by physical therapists as secondary stakeholders.
As for hardware, our device will be encased in a small box that will be strapped onto the user’s back. We are using a chip that includes an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The data from these two sensors is combined to determine the position of a user and quantify the amount of slouching. If the slouching is too significant, a vibrational coin motor is turned on to alert the user of their poor posture. Once the user returns to an anatomically neutral position, the vibration motor will be turned off and the device will continue to monitor the user’s posture. We are also including an EMG sensor that will track the activation of the trapezius muscles, which play an important role in maintaining correct posture.
We have implemented bluetooth technology allowing for our device to be cordless and powered by a battery. At the end of a posture sensing session, all of the data will be stored to the user’s profile and be displayed on charts and graphs to help them track, monitor, and visualize their progress over time.
My favorite aspect of this class is having the opportunity to collaborate with a group of people on something tangible. I’ve learned so many hard and soft skills throughout this entire process and I’m excited to apply them in the projects I’ll be working on this summer at my internship. It hasn’t been smooth sailing throughout, but we’ve been able to overcome every challenge in our way. As we near the finish line, we look to fulfill all the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the semester. We are also presenting at the Senior Design Expo at the end of the year! We still have some ways to go before we can unveil our finished product…
Update (05/09/18): We successfully completed our project AND…. we won Third Place at the Senior Design Expo! All the hours we put in paid off big time! Check out our final product below: