College of Education faculty join in CEET Senior Design Day projects

Three NIU College of Education faculty members served as sponsors for the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s Senior Design Day projects.

Pi-Sui Hsu, the college’s Senior Faculty Fellow and an associate professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, worked with students on “Development of a Heart Rate Monitoring System.”

Emerson Sebastião and Chris Hill, assistant professors in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, collaborated on “Intelligent Square Stepping Exercise Mat” and “Integrated Wearable Feedback Device for Human Walking,” respectively.

“I started participating in Senior Design Day projects in 2018, and I have had fun collaborating with faculty and students in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology,” Hsu said. “I was able to realize my research ideas and learn engineering process, which helps a great deal of my own research program as well.”

Hsu’s project aspired to fashion a low-cost, data-rich, wrist-mounted system that would help her track and monitor the heart rates of students as they participate in science- or engineering-related activities.

“I have conducted research in the area of science and engineering education with middle school students, particularly students from low-income families,” Hsu said. “These students tend to show a high level of anxiety toward science and engineering.”

Sebastião’s “Intelligent Square Stepping Exercise Mat” – called MOBILITY MAT – seeks to ease the intervention process for kinesiologists attempting to assist older adults or those with diseases who are facing mobility limitations or memory issues.

Current clients are given visual representations on paper or through physical demonstration to replicate from memory on fabric mats; MOBILITY MAT provides light sensors that interact with computer software to show the step patterns for clients to memorize and reproduce, similar to Hasbro’s Simon game, and that would emit sounds to alert clients of mistakes.

MOBILITY MAT enhances the intervention process, generates data for researchers and boosts the potential of further use in rehabilitation settings.

From regular meetings with engineering students on Team 18 to presentation and testing of prototypes to producing the full-scale mat, Sebastião applauds the mission “to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and advance the research we do not only in the KNPE department but at NIU in general.”

He also was able to bring the CEET students to the M. Joan Popp Motor Behavior Lab “to gain a better understanding of the things we do and how we do them.”

“This initiative from the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology is fantastic. The entire process from submitting proposal ideas to pairing you and your project with a team was excellent – very well coordinated and organized,” Sebastião said.

“After seeing the amazing work the students did throughout the year in materializing my project idea, I am already brainstorming more ideas for the next Senior Design Day project.”

Hill’s “Integrated Wearable Feedback Device for Human Walking” intends to assist people who have experienced strokes or other neurological pathologies that stole their ability to walk through damage in their brains or neuromuscular systems.

Such patients must go through the rehabilitation process to regain that ability, but the therapy is expensive and time-consuming while not transferring effectively to environments outside of the rehabilitation facility

To remedy these problems, Hill said, patients could wear a mobile and low-profile monitor with several sensors that measure and provide feedback on knee-joint flexion during a normal walking gait.

“These students designed and built devices that measured the angle of the knee,” Hill said. “Additionally, they programmed a visual feedback system that provides reinforcement feedback based on how much a person changes their knee movement as they walk.”

Hill praises the CEET students, who also synchronized the device and its program with an EEG that allows researchers to see brain activity in people getting reinforcement as they walk.

“My team of students truly has done some incredible work,” Hill said. “Their work has accelerated the timeline I had for my project and, importantly, increased the quality of the research.”

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