Producing an Interactive Rehabilitation System in a 36-hour Hackathon

Achievement date: 

Teams of students devised and produced novel solutions within 36 hours at a hackathon sponsored by the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at the University of Washington (UW). The winning team developed an interactive rehabilitation system for patients with foot drop, a common side effect of stroke, spinal cord injury, and certain hip surgeries.


Students learn to operate under the time pressures of industry, and connections made at the event have led to increased collaborations across institutions. 


The 15 hackathon participants came from the UW, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, San Diego State University, and other CSNE-affiliated partner institutions and programs across the country. The students represented diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines, but they all shared a common interest in neural engineering and the desire to put their knowledge to use building something new—something that perhaps has never been attempted or seen before.

Hackathon participants were first sorted into five competing teams and then provided a variety of equipment, such as basic circuit components, soldering irons, and a 3-D printer. They also were provided with proprietary devices. The student teams were then tasked with working together to identify what their project would be, what real-world problem it would solve, and building a working prototype within the allotted time.

This winning device, DropStop, collects electromyogram (EMG) signals from leg and foot muscles and translates them into biofeedback in the form of light emitting diode (LED) output. This line of blinking lights on a circuit board serves as biofeedback the patient can use in their physical therapy.