A University of Houston engineer has received funding to create a pediatric exoskeleton, designed to help children with spinal cord injuries and other mobility disorders. The exoskeletons will be customized to grow as the child grows.

Professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal develops algorithms that read electrical activity in the brain and translate it into movement, using a subject’s thoughts about movement to power robotic exoskeletons, bionic hands, and other assistive devices. The brain-machine interface collects information through sensors attached to the outside of the scalp, rather than through a surgical implant.

Compared to the slower and heavier devices used for adults, the children's exoskeleton will be made from a sturdy, lightweight, and highly maneuverable carbon-fiber composite. The first pediatric exoskeletons will likely use sensors; later versions may employ a myoelectric system that depends on residual muscle activity.

The researchers used a 3D printer to inexpensively produce a series of prototypes.