Haley Warren

MIT Department: Mechanical Engineering
Undergraduate Institution: University of Vermont
Faculty Mentor: Neville Hogan
Research Supervisor: Meghan Huber, PhD
Website: LinkedIn

Biography

I am a biomedical engineering major at the University of Vermont, where I am also minoring in Chinese. My research interests include wearable robotics, joint biomechanics, and the role of the nervous system in human motion. In addition to pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering, I intend to advocate for rare disease research and awareness. In my free time, I love playing violin, making jewelry, and writing science fiction.

2019 Research Abstract

Quantifying Human Gait Responses to Applied Stiffness at the Hip

Haley R. Warren1, Meghan Huber2, Jongwoo Lee2, and Neville Hogan2,3
1 Department of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, University of Vermont
2 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3 Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Exoskeletons have great potential for increasing mobility, and therefore independence, for those with gait impairments. Most research on assistive exoskeletons aims to reduce the amount of energy walking requires. However, it remains an open question as to how these devices can be used to modify other aspects of gait behavior to assist patient populations. One potential method for altering gait is modulation of the leg joints’ stiffness. This approach could be used, for instance, to increase gait speed, strengthen muscles, or reduce gait asymmetry. But first, it is necessary to better understand how human gait responds to changes in joint stiffness.

This summer, we studied the effects of adding stiffness to the hip joints using the Samsung Gait Enhancing Mechatronic System (GEMS), a lightweight, untethered hip exoskeleton. In two experiments, we quantified how applying positive and negative stiffness to the hips affects hip amplitude and stride period during walking. Preliminary results show that positive stiffness reduces hip angle and stride time, while negative stiffness increases those measures. Importantly, these effects were consistent across individuals and persisted for as long as the exoskeleton was activated. These findings highlight the potential of using the GEMS hip exoskeleton to correct impaired gait behavior.