KINGSTON, R.I. – May 6, 2021 – Rehabilitating from an ankle injury can be a slow process, depending on the extent of the damage. However, if a physical therapist or a doctor had more detailed, immediate feedback during the process, it would help form an accurate assessment.

A team of biomedical engineering students at the University of Rhode Island created a device for its senior capstone design project which addresses precisely that.

The project, called Wobble Board Force Quantification, uses sensors to quantify the amount of force someone applies to a board which can tilt in any direction as a person presses down on their foot. Data collected from each sensor is converted to a numerical output and is manipulated into a heat pressure map displayed on a screen.

Holes were drilled into the bottom of the Wobble Board to attach the necessary wires.
Holes were drilled into the bottom of the Wobble Board to attach the necessary wires.

The team of Zachary Dougherty, Anthony DellaGrotta, Morgan Harr and Connor Brown won first place for the Wobble Board at the Northeast Bioengineering Conference in March. The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University hosted the virtual event.

Eugene Chabot, an adjunct professor in the College of Engineering and Craig Simpson, a physical therapist, served as mentors for the team.

“The Wobble Board is an example of how biomedical engineering skills can be used to enhance rehabilitation practices through health technologies,” said Kunal Mankodiya, URI associate professor of biomedical engineering and co-director of the capstone program. “Despite having a much different way of working due to COVID-19, all of our students demonstrated perseverance and adaptability. The quality of the projects was beyond our expectations.”

The students who developed the Wobble Board have connected with the New England Medical Innovation Network for guidance on turning the project into a commercial product.

“We always encourage students to think beyond the prototypes,” said Mankodiya.

Here was each student’s role on the project and what they learned from the experience.

Zachary Dougherty

Wobble Board was tested by applying pressure
The Wobble Board was tested by applying pressure to the white insole on top of the board, which had sensors inside it to capture data.

Software Engineer, Ellington, Connecticut

“There were a number of challenges in writing a code that can best display the force quantification of the exercise. After deciding that a simple line graph of each sensor would not be very useful to a physical rehabilitation practice, our group finalized a concept of a contour map of the foot, assigning colors to different quantities of pressure. From there, a complex code relating the sensors on the wobble board to specific areas on the map, and equations to manipulate the force in between each sensor was written. This is what gave us the final display of an updating map of the foot throughout an exercise.”

Anthony DellaGrotta

Testing and Research, Coventry, Rhode Island

“A lot of brainstorming, research, and a feasibility test were needed before we started constructing our prototype. It was my job to address any issues that we might have had early on, along with running tests and making measurements of our components to see if they would fit well with our design.

There was a lot more that goes into working on a group project than I initially thought. From brainstorming, to conducting research, testing parts, making measurements, designing, and constructing, we were all exposed to an engineering working environment which will be beneficial in the future.”

Data collected from the sensors
Data collected from the sensors in the insoles were converted to a numerical output, producing a color-coded heat map on a screen.

Morgan Harr

Hardware Engineer, Sparta, New Jersey

“I was in charge of creating the overall prototype, as well as constructing our Arduino microcontroller. The microcontroller took a lot of time and patience to create, since the wires had to be perfectly placed and soldered to the correct area in a very small space, with nothing touching. I also helped with the 3D model and the printing of our instability ball, the object that allows the board to move 360 degrees.

I learned how to work effectively in a team to get an end result we could be proud of and how to manage my time properly. The project prepared me for real-world engineering.”

Connor Brown

Sensor Design and Testing, Westport, Massachusetts

“I designed our pressure sensor array and ran testing to verify that they were working. We were very unfamiliar with them at first and had to do a lot of research to fully understand how they worked. Through testing and help from our mentors, we successfully built a system that provided accurate feedback.

I learned a lot about working as a team, especially with the COVID-19 restrictions. We had to make many adjustments based on if someone was quarantined or if we were unable to go to the lab.”

Fans’ Favorite

Winning the “Fans’ Favorite Award” at the conference was the URI team of Sarah Leighton, Isabella Lapolito and Madeline Setear for their Baby Sleep Monitor. Their mentor was Gözde Çay, a doctoral student studying computer engineering at URI.

Video Caption

The Wobble Board created by a team of biomedical engineering seniors at URI won first place at the Northeast Bioengineering Conference.