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A Haptics-Enabled Rehabilitation Design Project for a Control Systems Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Experiential Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.2.1 - 22.2.11

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Paper Authors


Liya (Grace) Ni California Baptist University

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Dr. Grace Ni received her B.Eng. in Information and Control Engineering from Xi'an Jiaotong University in China, M.Eng. in Electrical Engineering from National University of Singapore, and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at California Baptist University. Prior to that, she spent three years working for a start-up company in Canada as a senior research scientist and also taught at University of Wisconsin, Platteville for two years, as an assistant professor in Electrical Engineering. Her research interests include controls and robotics, particularly haptics with applications in virtual reality and teleoperation.

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A Haptics-Enabled Rehabilitation Design Project for a Control Systems CourseControl Systems or similar courses on the topic of feedback control theory are offered inmost electrical engineering and mechanical engineering undergraduate programs. Thispaper presents an interesting design project for the Control Systems course that engagesstudents by a rehabilitation application that involves cutting-edge technology of haptics,meaning force feedback generated by computer software and a robotic device.The idea of haptics enabled rehabilitation is to assist post-stroke patients to regain finemotor skills through computer-game-like exercises. The patients will feel the force thatpushes or pulls their hand as the reaction from a game, or guides their hand in tracing acontour. In this design project, each team of five electrical or mechanical engineeringstudents will design their own haptic-enabled rehabilitation system and compete in the endof the semester. The Novint Falcon device, which is a low-cost haptic device, is used as theinterface that provides force feedback. The Matlab/Simulink/Realtime Workshop platformand the Quanser QUARC control design software is employed for the softwareimplementation.Before the design project starts, students became familiarized with the hardware-in-the-loop real-time control system setup with a few lab projects on DC motor modeling andcontrol in the same software environment. Then they designed PD controllers to implementsimple haptic effects such as spring and damper. Meanwhile, they explored ideas on how tomake the rehab exercises fun and helpful, and also started to add computer graphics to theproject using the QUARC visualization block. Later in the semester, when more advancedcontrol techniques, such as fuzzy logic control, was introduced, students investigated theimprovement of the rehab exercises by adjusting the strength of force feedback based onthe user’s performance using fuzzy logic. The teams presented their work in the end of thesemester through oral presentations and written reports, where they reflected on how thisproject helped them realize their ethical responsibility, the impact of engineering solutionsto the society, and the need for life-long learning. The assessment of their work is based onthe creativity of the rehab exercises, the technical complexity and application of controltheory, their oral presentation and written report, and each member’s contribution in amultidisciplinary team. It is obvious that his project addresses most, if not all of the ABEToutcomes A-K.Students also took a survey in the end of the semester to evaluate this project and suggestedimprovement ideas.

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