Ergonomics done right.®
June 24th, 2019

Ergo U: Arizona State University: Robotic Exoskeletons

In the series Ergo U:  Ergonomics Research Notes from the Field, Humantech Director of Research and Ergonomics Engineer Blake McGowan meets with ergonomics researchers from leading universities and associations across the country to share their latest findings.


McGowan (left), Sugar (right)

Field Notes:  On a hot June morning, Blake met with Dr. Thomas Sugar from the Arizona State University Polytechnic School in Mesa, Arizona to learn how robotic systems and exoskeletons could be the next step in advanced manufacturing. Their full abilities extend beyond improving the quality of life of both disabled and able-bodied individuals. They also have the potential to improve the quality of work in industry, enhance human performance, reduce muscle fatigue, and possibly reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace.

Blake’s Take: “It’s an understatement to say that Tom is passionate about the potential wearable robotics and exoskeletons have to help society and improve people’s lives. His thorough understanding of these devices (history, benefits, and risks) has contributed immensely to their state of the knowledge. The history of wearable robotics in the military, rehabilitative and occupational use is fascinating, and Tom’s excitement sharing it with me was contagious. He’s quite optimistic these will continue to develop and make positive and immense impacts in the future.”

Additional Activities: During the visit, Blake toured the Polytechnic School, which included the research laboratories associated with Graphic Information Technology (web, print, photography and multimedia), Manufacturing Engineering, and Human Systems Engineering. “Arizona State University was named the most innovative school in the nation because of its groundbreaking research and partnerships and its commitment to helping students thrive in college and beyond. I didn’t realize the university is one of, if not the largest, public universities by enrollment in the United States.

Expert: Dr. Thomas Sugar (PhD: University of Pennsylvania) is a Professor in Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, The Polytechnic School, at Arizona State University.  He also serves as the Associate Dean for The Honors College at ASU Polytechnic. His primary research interests include wearable robotics to improve worker wellness and improve the quality of life, focusing on compliant wearable robots using tunable springs and pneumatic muscleactuators. Tom is a member of the Executive Leadership for the Wearable Robotics Association and is heavily involved in WearRAcon.