Wednesday, December 2, 2015

URSP Student Bradford Webb Researches Sensor Embedded Socks that Calculate Foot Pressure Based on Activity and Arch

I got interested in this project because I wanted to find a better way to understand how my flat feet affect how I walk because in general it makes me clumsier and makes me vulnerable to more injuries. It's related to my long-term goals because researching foot pressure using sensors may give me enough knowledge to develop my own for a senior design project or at the least give me a better understanding of electrical components I haven't worked with before. Right now, I talk to my advisers and a grad student about vendors to use for my research project since my initial ideas about where to buy my components from would not be ideal to use in an experiment due to a high margin of error. I also read manuals of devices so I learn how they operate which allows me to determine along with my advisers if that product is or is not suitable for use in my research experiment. One thing I discovered this week is the difference between certain types of pressure sensors. Force Sensors can differ from the software attached to them, how they connect to computers, and structure. Software for force sensors can differ in   how the force data is collected (csv files for excel or .txt for Notepad, Word, ect. for most sensors) . The format of the file can affect the programming used to properly parse the data from the file created from the sensor.

Once the file type for data input is known, the next thing to focus on is how that data is submitted. Sensors that are wireless tend to be more expensive, but it is more ideal for measuring pressure of actions that are mobile in nature (i.e. running, jumping). With wireless connections, most sensors can either be done through bluetooth or wi-fi and depending on where the experiment is being conducted (outside or in a facility that does not allow or have access to wi -fi). Wired connections via usb port are cheaper, but clearly the drawbacks are that motion is restricted by the length of the wire.

Lastly, sensors can come in a variety of structures. Some are distributed with one appendage (single -handle), multiple appendages connected to one usb (multi-handle), and others can be all-in-one consisting of several sensor points that give a higher pressure average or higher accuracy of pressure in several regions. Working on this research project has had me learn how to negotiate with vendors, adapt to obstacles that aren't apparent at the start of researching, and learn about sensors in a practical setting and the current topics and methods that are popular in Electrical Engineering field on sensors.