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Francisco Lopez

Field: Biomechanics, Medicine, Sport

Major/minor: Mechanical Engineering, German Studies

Host: Technische Universität Darmstadt. Institut für Sportwissenschaft. AG Lauflabor (Locomotion Laboratory).

Duration: 3 months in summer 2017


Job description: As a broad overview, I performed research and analyzed the human gait, recreated movement using models and simulations. Specifically, I investigated human movement through experimentation, analyzed the biomechanical data using MATLAB, and created models aimed at explaining different aspects and functions of the human leg during hopping. A simplified, mechanical model doesn't correctly represent natural human gait, so I had to develop a model that simulates dynamic monopeds and bipeds in a "hopping" motion. This involved replacing the typical spring-mass system with a non-linear, active muscle.

The application of such models could help us to design assistive systems (e.g. orthoses/ prostheses), which better support human leg function as state-of-the-art running/jumping systems.

I learned: to find and use literature on human locomotion, model body mechanics/ dynamics, write MATLAB scripts, create Simulink simulations, analyze biomechanical data.

Comments: Human locomotion and robotic prosthetics have been the fields I have been working towards since high school. This internship was the first time I was truly exposed to what that field looks like. It was either going to motivate me to continue on this career path or make me realize that I should be looking into something else... luckily I enjoyed the research, and have never been more excited to continue working towards this ultimate career goal.

Culturally, the assignment was rewarding. The simple fact of being in Germany and in a German University gave me insights on the German work culture and ethic. I also lived in a Studentwohnheim, which kept me in close contact with many German students my age. While I didn't practice as much German as I had hoped for, I definitely gained a more international perspective in the field of engineering and the sciences.

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