Project MARCH, revolutionary technology with one goal: march!
Exoskeletons – harnesses that simulate or strengthen the natural movement of the human body – are an upcoming development in today’s health care and technology. Since several decades technicians and scientists have been working on the development of exoskeletons for several purposes, such as protection for people working under extreme conditions and – more recently – as a tool to re-enable paraplegic patients to be more mobile. Within this last category Project MARCH, a young multidisciplinary team of students from the Delft University of Technology, have made it their mission to develop a new exoskeleton to help paraplegic patients to carry out their daily life activities. As partner of this project TMC supports the team during the development of the exoskeleton and during the preparations made for participating in the world’s first bionic championship: the Cybathlon 2016.
‘We started our project in August 2015,’ Jelle Sturkenboom, Team Manager of Project MARCH tells. ‘Since this time we build a strong and multidisciplinary team consisting of 19 students from several studies of the Delft University of Technology. The different skills and backgrounds combined with our shared motivation to contribute to health care and technology, enables us to develop a new concept for an exoskeleton.’ ‘For disabled people and especially paraplegic patients, every day’s activities such as standing up from a couch or opening a door can be very difficult and sometimes even impossible,’ Sjoerd Butter, responsible for Public Relations & Acquisition, adds to this. ‘Wheel chairs regain a large part of the users’ mobility, but are often also a restriction. With the exoskeleton paraplegic patients are able to stand and walk and in this way get back most of their mobility!’
Cybathlon race 2016
Currently the Project MARCH team is working on the design of the exoskeleton, which is based on the concept of the so-called MINDWALKER. ‘The MINDWALKER is an existing functional exoskeleton developed by the Delft University of Technology together with the University of Twente,’ Jelle explains. ‘It is a prototype that can be developed to a new more versatile and adaptable exoskeleton for daily use. For this we work closely together with the Sint Maartens clinic in Nijmegen, where several exoskeletons are tested in the rehabilitation department. The experiences of the patients and specialists enables us to build an exoskeleton in the best way possible.’ Sjoerd adds to this: ‘In October 2016 our concept will be tested during the Cybathlon that will be held in Zürich, Switzerland. The Cybathlon is the world’s first bionic championship for para athletes where both commercial and academic teams from all over the world will compete in several races and categories. With this we aim to prove that our concept is the best one in the world!’
Jelle and Sjoerd explain that the success of the project is not only depending on the skills and hard work of the team members, but also depends on the support of partners. Jelle: ‘Until now we have 19 parties, including TMC, who support our project. In return of the support we invite these parties to our events and inform them with every new milestone we reach. We’re very happy that an international company like TMC is willing to sponsor us and we are honoured with their partnership.’ Joeri Voets, Managing Director of TMC West adds to this: ‘TMC is always looking for promising projects to improve the quality of people’s lives and to contribute to current issues in the world. Project MARCH allows us to help people with a special need for health care to participate in the society. Moreover, we believe that the development of exoskeletons provides us with the technology that can be used for all kind of purposes in order to increase men’s quality of life. As partner we are excited to take part in this project and the race held in October.’ Jelle: ‘In a few months we will present our exoskeleton. We realise that we work on a tight schedule, but are therefore even more motivated to get the best result in this project and prove ourselves at the Cybathlon race!’
Project MARCH will be appearing in the new Dutch documentary “Sta op en loop” which will be produced by NCRV and KV Films. The documentary follows Claudia, one of the exoskeleton users who works together with Project MARCH. It is expected that the documentary will be broadcast in the beginning of 2017.