Department Seminar

The ultimate machine: Engineering to improve movement for children with cerebral palsy

Speaker Details:

Kat Steele
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of Washington

Lecture Details:

January 26, 2017
12:30 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.
Foege N130A, Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room


The human body is the ultimate machine. With billions of neural connections and hundreds of actuators, the human body lets us explore and interact with our world. However, the same complexity that makes our body so versatile also makes it extremely difficult to treat when things go wrong. For individuals with neurologic disorders, such as cerebral palsy and stroke, the ability to move is impaired and negatively impacts quality of life. In this presentation, I will discuss how we have been using a combination of dynamic musculoskeletal simulation, muscle synergy analysis, and device design to understand and enhance human performance after neurologic injury. I will present examples of how we can use engineering and design to improve diagnosis, repair, and maintenance of the ultimate machine. We will examine a case series of looking at how these tools can be applied to improve movement for children with cerebral palsy. Some examples include using musculoskeletal simulation to inform orthopaedic surgery, electromyography to understand altered neuromuscular control, and rapid prototyping to improve the fabrication and design of orthoses.

Speaker Bio:

Kat Steele is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on integrating dynamic simulation, motion analysis, medical imaging, and device design to improve quality of life for individuals with neurologic disorders. She also co-directs AccessEngineering, an NSF-supported program to encourage individuals with disabilities to pursue careers in engineering and integrate topics on universal design and accessibility into the engineering curriculum. She earned her BS in Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. To integrate engineering and medicine, she has worked in multiple hospitals including the Denver Children’s Hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She has been awarded an NIH K12 Career Development Award in Rehabilitation Engineering, NSF CAREER Early Faculty Development Award, and multiple NIH R01 grants. More information about Dr. Steele’s research and the Ability & Innovation Lab are available at: