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Posted on November 06, 2014
Helping a specialized group of people connect to the world again – that’s what the Booz Allen Hamilton bio-robotics team in the Strategic Innovation Group (SIG) is up to these days.
Our team, based at Booz Allen’s Center for Robotics Systems and Simulation (CRoSS) in Arlington, supports several Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency bio-robotics and prosthetics initiatives, including the program developing new prosthetic arm systems for amputees, and those who have lost the ability to control their upper extremities due to spinal cord injury or disabling diseases like ALS.
Ultimately, the programs supported by the Booz Allen bio-robotics team aim to provide capabilities desired by wounded warriors, and others paralyzed by disease or accident, expressed in their response to one simple question: “What do you want to do?” The most common responses have been related to feeding and grooming; others want to hold their significant other’s hand or cook for their kids.
Whatever their goals, the patients using DARPA funded technologies feel more connected to friends, family and work.
Recently, lead engineer Justin Manzo shared the results of client research and development activities at Booz Allen’s 15th Street office in Washington, D.C. with a captivated audience of colleagues and those interested in the bio-robotics project. Through charts, graphs, photos and videos, Justin showed us just how Booz Allen really is “doing cool stuff for a good cause,” and what his team has been supporting. Projects range from stunning developments in prosthetics that feature rotating shoulders and hand sensors that allow a user to hold fragile objects to revolutionary advances in controls for these prosthetic systems, from external sensors on shoes to implanted sensors on the brain.
Besides significant breakthroughs in advanced electromechanical systems, the DARPA researchers have also discovered new techniques for trauma surgery and triage, meaning doctors can “cut smarter” during amputation procedures and maintain vital native nerves that can be retrained during therapy to operate the advanced prostheses.
This wouldn’t be a SIG project if we weren’t also looking for ways to take it to the next level. While Justin and the bio-robotics team are thinking about new ways to bring robotic and human interface technologies to disabled populations, they have also informed how the devices can be used for other applications, such as attaching mechanical arms to a wheeled or mobile device and using it as an emergency response tool for bomb threats and natural disasters.
The goal remains the same: create effective, lifelike and innovate prosthetic and robotic devices to solve the most pressing challenges and situations.
I’m proud to say that the results, findings and creations developed by projects Booz Allen supports have provided the promise of improving the quality of life for those suffering from ALS – a disease that I and the Booz Allen ALS Working Group are fighting hard to eliminate. Since 1999, Booz Allen has raised more than $700,000 for the ALS Association by participating in large-scale fundraisers including the annual Walk to Defeat ALS. In addition, our employees hosted the annual Rising Leaders Forum (RLF) Pro-Am Golf Tournament on Oct. 15 and raised more than $60,000 through golf fees, and a silent and live auction.
It’s one thing to innovate, as we often do here at Booz Allen, but it’s another to innovate and create for such a worthy group of people.
Join us for the DC Walk to Defeat ALS on November 1 by registering at our team site.