Advances in medical science and bionic mobility aids are doing remarkable things for individuals with serious or long-term medical needs. While these innovations are helping a specific body of population, they probably won’t ever need to be used by the majority of people. That doesn’t mean engineering isn’t also making life easier when dealing with more minor or common medical issues, such as a sprained ankle or fractured foot. The SmartBoot, developed by a University of Delaware interdisciplinary engineering senior design team, is a prime example of that.
“’This device brings science to an established technique,’ says [project sponsor Jill] Higginson. ‘Patients are often trained in the clinic on a bathroom scale and then sent home with crutches, with the assumption that they can consistently perform partial weight bearing on their own.’ However, recent research conducted by Higginson and [project sponsor Jill] Knarr has shown that patients often bear significantly more weight on the injured foot than prescribed, even immediately after training. ‘New technology is enabling devices like SmartBoot to shed some quantitative scientific light on established treatment approaches,’ [project sponsor Brian] Knarr says. ‘Sensors have become more affordable and smaller, allowing existing protocols to be turned into better tools for clinicians.’ Features incorporated into the boot include force sensors, data processing, data storage, wireless data transmission and sensory feedback.”