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Bistable Transmissions for Magnetic Screw Actuators

Undergraduate Research with the MIT Culpepper Lab

 Spring 2022 

This project focuses on using nonlinear springs to control the power delivery to an actuator for a prosthetic foot. When I joined the project, the lab's actuator, which used a magnetic lead screw, released too much energy over a short period of time, making it too powerful for practical use; my role was to explore how incorporating a nonlinear spring as a transmission could spread-out that power pulse over time.

Over the semester, I produced several prototypes of bistable mechanisms to explore their properties and modeled their behavior in MATLAB. This culminated in a script that determined the parameters for the actuator device; spring length, spring constant, etc.

This project allowed me to combine my construction skills with my technical skills. As I modeled and prototyped, I researched bistable mechanisms and participated in mini design-reviews that helped me develop my communication and problem-solving techniques.

There exist few actuation-transmission systems that can deliver the right amount of power to flex and lift a foot, so this system has revolutionary potential for applications in prosthetics. Although I'm not working on the project anymore, as I'm pursuing other work with the Culpepper Lab, other students will continue to develop the mechanism.

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