"RENEW-U" - Exercise Equipment for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (20)
Views (1)

Why This Project Is Important 

Individuals with spinal cord injury generally have very low levels of fitness and have difficulty performing essential tasks such as manual wheelchair propulsion. Thus, engaging in exercise to improve upper-extremity muscle strength and wheelchair mobility is critical for overcoming physical barriers, returning to work, and functioning independently.

Project Description 

The goal of Michigan Tech's Velovations Enterprise team is to design and test the usability of a new exercise device that can facilitate upper-extremity resistance exercise so that individuals with spinal cord injury can ultimately get stronger, be more independent, and improve their quality of life. For this project we are partnering with Dr. Steven Elmer’s research team in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Michigan Tech. Dr. Elmer’s team has developed an exercise device called "RENEW-U" (Resistance Exercise via Negative Eccentrically-induced Work for Upper-extremities) which involves exercising elbow, shoulder, and trunk muscles by resisting the reverse moving handles of a motor driven arm cycle. RENEW-U is advantageous because it offers a high-intensity exercise for muscle yet requires little whole-body effort and thus is suitable for de-conditioned individuals who have difficulty exercising.

Our Velovations team is currently working to design and build a wheelchair specific version of RENEW-U. Compared to the original RENEW-U design, our novel device will allow for greater adjustability and individual control to the wheelchair user, hopefully providing a similar exercise experience and level of enjoyment that an able-bodied person would have. With improved safety features, a more compact design, and the capacity to accommodate a broad range of wheelchair sizes, this device will be suitable for use in both rehabilitation and exercise training settings. With our novel prototype we will then work with undergraduate and graduate students in kinesiology and physical therapy programs to evaluate the usability (i.e., usefulness, effectiveness, enjoyment) of wheelchair RENEW-U to ensure that it meets the needs of wheelchair users. Thus, this project will not only focus on delivering a usable wheelchair specific version of RENEW-U but also provide experiential training in working as a multi-disciplinary team that bridges engineering and human health. Finally, this project will serve as an important first step to implementing RENEW-U during early rehabilitation from spinal cord injury.

Meet the Researcher

Steven Elmer

Dr. Elmer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Michigan Technological University. His research interests in health are broad in nature and he uses a cycling model to investigate aspects of skeletal muscle function and dysfunction. Applications for his research range from basic aspects of neuromuscular function to applied human performance in a variety of settings including injury, rehabilitation, ergonomics, and sport.

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of $10,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $433
days left
Funding is Closed

What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Donations will be used to purchase supplies to design, build, and test the equipment.
  • Provide integrated project based experience to engineering students
  • Bring this research to individuals who need it most
  • Make a difference in the lives of individuals with spinal cord injury

$5+ (20/100)

Email updates on the project

$50+ (17/100)

A personal thank you note from our team, plus the above

$100+ (16/50)

A signed picture of our team, plus the above

$500+ (4/10)

A Michigan Tech coffee mug, plus the above

$1,000 (1/5)

A Michigan Tech polo, plus the above

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