The aim of the Ability & Innovation Lab is to empower human performance through
engineering and design. We take a humancentered design approach and work closely
with patients, clinicians, and families. Whether on the athletic field, in the clinic, or at
home we seek to understand how humans move and how we can improve performance
and quality of life.
Expectations for Undergraduate Researchers
Participating in research can give you an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills
you are learning in the classroom to important clinical challenges. Research is
challenging by definition, most of what you will be doing has never been done before.
As such, we are looking for students who are selfstarters, independent, and willing to
explore uncharted territory. As a lab we work to support each other and work as a team
to improve human ability.
Our general expectations for undergraduate researchers include:
● Dedicating a minimum of three quarters to volunteer in the lab. During the academic
year, classes are your top priority.These are challenging projects and three quarters will
give you the time to dive in and make significant contributions to research.
● Spending a minimum of tenhours per week working on research (including weekly
meetings). We know that classes, work, and other extracurricular activities keep your
schedule busy. Ask yourself if you have time to responsibly dedicate to pursuing
● Participating in weekly research meetings. You should come prepared to these meetings
with slides or other handouts to share your progress, discuss challenges, and help your
peers with their research.
● Helping with outreach activities. We commonly have requests from K12
students and other groups to tour our lab. We ask for volunteers from the lab to help with these tours
and share their experience.
● Keeping clear documentation and a lab notebook. Others will likely be building upon and
learning from your work in the future. Thus it is important that everyone keeps clear
notes (including comments in any computer code) so that you can easily share what you
● Defining clear goals and outcomes. We aim for everyone to produce a final report,
abstract, or other publication based upon their project. We will work with you to help
define these goals for your specific project and career goals.
cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder caused by an injury to the brain near the time of birth and commonly impairs movement and walking.
Title: Is cartilage health compromised in CP or amputees?
Description: Prior research has documented that joint pain is common among individuals with cerebral palsy and amputees. However, the impact of these altered dynamics on cartilage
health have not been thoroughly explored. Using MRI images we can analyze the thickness of the knee cartilage in the two interested populations along with their age, weight, and height matched nonaffected peers.
The goal of this research is to manually segment the knees of our 15 children
with CP and 14 transfemoral amputees along with each of their respective controls. This
analysis will let us determine if cartilage health is compromised and how MRI may help
to monitor cartilage growth, development, and maintenance.
Minimum Requirements: Undergraduates with experience with Matlab in Mechanical
Engineering, Bioengineering, HCDE, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science or
related fields of interest.
To Learn More:
1. Contact forces increase at the knee during crouch gait (CP)
2. Gait mechanics influence healthy cartilage morphology and osteoarthritis of
Title: Analysis of muscle activity in daily life
Description: Physical activity is an important component to
overall health and prevention of disease. Prolonged bouts of
sedentary behavior place individuals at an increased risk for
disease even if they perform moderate to vigorous activities.
While pedometers allow users to record walking durations,
surface electromyography (EMG) allows for understanding of
the demands placed on individual muscles during daily life.
The purpose of this research is to test longterm
of muscle activity with EMG during activities of daily living in
unimpaired individuals. This project will set the foundation for
evaluating abnormal muscle activity in individuals with stroke,
cerebral palsy, and other neurological disorders.
For this project we will use surface electromyography (EMG)
to measure activity of the back, lowerand
muscles to analyze the repeatability of EMG measurements
and characterize muscle activity during daily life. We will use
both a lowcost
EMG device and a high end device to collect
data from the participant while they are both in and out of the
lab. EMG and accelerometer data will be processed in Matlab
to quantify daily muscle activity.
Minimum Requirements: Undergraduates in Electrical
Engineering, Computer Science, of Human Centered Design & Engineering with a
background in signal processing. Candidates with experience programming in Matlab
and some electronics (e.g. soldering) are preferred.
To Learn More:
Surface EMG +12 hours
Seattle Children’s Hospital Actigraph
Title: Quantifying hand use during constraint induced movement therapy
Description: Children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy
(where one side of the body is affected) often favor
their unaffected limb during daily tasks. To promote
use of their hemiplegic hand a therapy called
movement therapy (CIMT) is
administered where their unaffected hand is placed in
a cast for a month to encourage them to use and
improve performance of their affected hand. During
this therapy clinicians at Seattle Children’s Hospital
are interested in how the use of their affected limb
differs from the unaffected limb. We aim to provide
the clinicians with daily reports on hand use and
explore how the device can be used to motivate kids
to use their affected hand more. To quantify hand
movement we use an accelerometer (like a fitbit) to
track the movements of both wrists. The goals for this
research is to create a GUI for data analysis, collect
normative data (unimpaired individuals with our
inertial measurement units), answer the question of how we normalize the
data, and determine what data is most useful to patients/clinicians/parents.
Minimum Requirements: Undergraduates in HCDE or related fields of interest.
To Learn More:
movement therapy in young children with hemiplegic cerebral