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Using Technology to Assist in Human Movement

Exercise Science Featured Grad Student

Zach Petersen, a master's student in the department of exercise sciences has been focusing on using technology to assist in human movement, such as an app that will allow individuals to do physical therapy at home.

The master of exercise science program recognizes Spencer Petersen for demonstrating excellence and dedication in his field.

During his undergraduate studies, Petersen took a class on biomechanics and became fascinated with the role that technology plays in the science of human movement. This interest led him to pursue his graduate degree, and he now works with several biomechanics professors, including Dustin Bruening, Sarah Ridge, and Matt Seeley. With his thesis committee, Petersen has worked to understand the literature and questions about how the internal joints of the foot affect walking speed. His thesis centers on writing a software program to merge two measurement technologies that have never been combined before.

Another recent project involves working with members of the mechanical engineering program. Together, Petersen and the mechanical engineering team are trying to take physical therapy out of the clinic and into the home through the use of an app. The app, which is currently in the developmental phase, will give patients feedback, allowing them to measure their progress without leaving the house.

During his program, Petersen has managed the biomechanics laboratory, which houses 14 Vicon motion capture cameras, two AMTI in-ground force plates, an AMTI instrumented treadmill, a FootSTEPS plantar pressure and shear measurement system, and a Delsys Trigno EMG system. Professor Dustin Bruening said Petersen has done “a phenomenal job as the biomechanics laboratory manager. He has cleaned and organized laboratory resources, simplified laboratory processes, helped numerous students learn how to use the motion capture camera system, and acted as the interface for laboratory scheduling.” Petersen’s efforts have lightened the load for professors and students by helping the lab run smoothly.

Petersen will be graduating in June. Because of his experience and interest with the lab’s motion capture camera system, he hopes his future will include some exposure to the entertainment-industry side of motion capture. He’d like to thank his thesis committee for their incredible knowledge and skill in guiding him through the learning process. He’d also like to thank his family, who have been a great support to him. He couldn’t have come this far without them.