Lauren Murphy, a transition student at Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan has travelled to Arizona to represent Ireland at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) with a smart rehabilitation device that she has invented to aid multiple sclerosis sufferers.

Lauren’s father Gerard has MS and, observing the difficulties that he and other MS sufferers experience with ‘clenched fist’, Lauren set about developing an aid to help her father perform exercises to improve the action of opening and closing the fist.  Having developed her first mechanical prototype and testing it with her father, Lauren has been able to record a marked improvement in his dexterity once a repeated exercise programme is carried out.

To explore how to develop her prototype further, Lauren attended the first Hackathon at Alpa, DCU’s Innovation Campus, where she presented her idea to DCU software and hardware engineers and campus company, Nuwave Ventures.  All were inspired with her work and together they agreed to help her to transform her rehabilitation aid into a smart device that provides feedback to patients in real time as they carry out the exercise.

The result is an autonomous device with integrated electronics consisting of a set of sensors and a microcontroller printed circuit board.  The device now records data in a meaningful way so that improvements can be identified and it can also be connected to a PC to download the data.  The sensors are measuring, force, range of motion and number of actions in a given time.

Dr Conor McArdle from DCU School of Electronic Engineering worked in collaboration with Rachit Shah, an industrial engineer at Nuwave Ventures, based at DCU Alpha, to assist Lauren. Conor worked on software development and Rachit engineered the prototype with Lauren, creating the final product with one of the company’s 3D Printers.

This project will be up against stiff competition at Intel ISEF (May 8th to 13th) which is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition where approximately 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries  showcase their independent research and compete for approximately $4 million in prizes.

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