Tuesday, September 26, 2017

OSCAR Student Begonya Ozmen Martinez Creates a Classification Learner to Control a Prosthetic Hand

My name is Begonya Ozmen and I am a rising senior majoring in Bioengineering. This year I was an exchange student from Spain, and I had a great academic and life experience in Mason. However, I still wanted to learn first-hand how scientific research is carried out, so I decided to apply for URSP. Indeed, the OSCAR program has helped me broaden my knowledge in my field and gain experience in doing research in a lab for the first time.

In my case, I have always admired how progressively scientists have developed prosthetics to help amputees to recover the functionality of a lost limb. However, it is unfortunate that there are some people that cannot afford this sophisticated and expensive machinery. In my project, I designed a classification learner in order to control a prosthetic hand by moving the eyes. To do so, I used a compact Electroencephalogram (EEG) (the one I am wearing in the photo) that is much more affordable than other EEG systems. The classifier is able to distinguish when the person looks to the right, to the left, up, down and when they blink. Furthermore, the classifier from this research project will provide information to program a Brain Computer Interface for prosthetic arm control. The result would be a BCI based on Electrooculogram, as effective as the ones in the current market, but using less expensive materials, so that the final total cost would be much more affordable. On a weekly basis, I record different experiments with the EEG headband, and after filtering and processing the data, I try to look for patterns in the electrical signals. After figuring out what were the suitable moves, I built the classifier and test it to get the highest accuracy.

I see this project very related to what I want to do in the future, which is researching in more affordable and accurate prosthetic limbs and assistive devices.  

This summer I experienced what doing research means in all ways. I had bad times and I would feel very frustrated whenever I spent more than 3 days trying to fix an error in my code or spent a week figuring out the software, but I also had good times when I would get super excited because I was finally able to identify clear patterns in the electrical signals. Therefore, if there is one thing I learnt this summer is that the only way we can improve our skills is trying again and again, and failing again and again. At the end, you learn that research is an incremental process that takes time and effort and it is normal to not get results at the first attempt. However, the satisfactory feeling of seeing your goals achieved is incomparable.