AEM faculty spotlight:
The study of human locomotion and gait analysis is often done for medical purposes, sometimes as a diagnostic tool. However, current gait analysis is limited to a lab setting when a person is actively thinking about his or her locomotion, and doesn’t include data collected in a natural setting. AEM Associate Professor Yohannes Ketema is currently using his background in dynamics to develop an alternative method of analyzing gait that is not limited to in-lab use. Professor Ketema describes some of his work below.
Describe your research.
My research is in the area of dynamics. I have been involved in studies where the methods of dynamics can be applied such as vibrations and vibration damping, orbital mechanics, and human gait analysis, which is what I am currently studying.
What is gait analysis, and why is gait analysis important?
Gait analysis is a characterization of a person’s gait in terms of parameters such as stride length, cadence (that is the number of steps per unit time), and flexions (angles at the knee and hip), for example. These parameters can be used to specify ranges for normal gait and also to identify abnormalities in gait when they are present.
Gait analysis is important because many diseases affect human gait in an adverse way. It is then necessary to understand how a person’s gait has been affected, and to what extent, in order to devise an effective treatment plan. For example in cerebral palsy (CP) it is common that patients undergo pre- and post-operative gait analysis to gage the effectiveness of surgery.
What specifically is your research in gait analysis?
Current gait analysis is typically done in gait labs using marker-based motion capture. In this method, markers are attached to a person’s body and their motions are tracked by a set of cameras. The problem with this method is that it is very expensive and that it is restrictive in the sense that patients can only walk over a short distance, and during a short period of time. In my research, I am working on ways to develop alternative methods of gait analysis that are based on a dynamical model for gait. In this approach, small sensors that are attached to the body, at the ankles for example, are used to reconstruct the gait. This method would be far less restrictive, and less expensive than motion capture in a gait lab. It would also give a more realistic view of the gait as it would be taking place in the patient’s natural walking environments as opposed to in a lab.
What is your involvement with student groups and activities?
I am faculty advisor for the student chapter of the AIAA at the University of Minnesota. This is a group of students who are passionate about aerospace engineering. They organize many activities for aerospace engineering students and anyone else who is interested. Students interested in joining or finding out more can email the student group at aiaa (at) aem.umn.edu.
I am also one of the faculty advisors for the CanSat group. CanSat is an international student competition that aims to give students early experience in many important aspects of engineering. The specific aim is to design, build, and fly a “spacecraft” that consists of a carrier and a lander with a hen-egg as payload. The craft is deployed from a model rocket and is required to land without damaging the egg.
Another competition that AIAA students take part in is the NASA-sponsored Space Transportation Design Competition. I have served as the faculty advisor for this group of students for the past two years and I am doing it this year. In this competition, students are given space transportation design challenges that are new every year. The last competition, for example, involved designing a roundtrip mission to Mars.
Undergraduate research is another area that I am often involved in. My current research in gait analysis provides many opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in working with microcontrollers, sensors, and programming. Overall, I think it is very beneficial for undergraduates to conduct research. It gives them a valuable opportunity to put to work the knowledge that they acquire in the classroom. The University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) is an excellent way for students to fund their research.
How can students get involved?
Students can contact me at ketema (at) aem.umn.edu if they are interested.
Last Modified: Monday, 06-Jun-2016 14:28:10 CDT -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation