Ergonomics done right.®
February 28th, 2019

Ergo U: Virginia Tech: Occupational 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.


From left to right: Srinivasan, McGowan, Nussbaum

Field Notes: Recently, Blake met with Dr. Maury Nussbaum from the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia to learn about how exoskeletons are used in the field of occupational biomechanics.

Blake’s Take: “The Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Virginia Tech is world-class with its strong group of human factors and ergonomics researchers and engaged student body. Currently, the Occupational Ergonomics and Biomechanics (OEB) Laboratories are evaluating the use of occupational exoskeletons to better understand the benefits and risks. The group is conducting some of the most comprehensive and novel assessments, such as user comfort, mental performance, kinematics, kinetics, energy expenditure, worker performance and productivity, product quality, and more. This type of high-quality research is beginning to expose the impacts of these devices. For instance, some of the original narratives (claims) proposed by the manufacturers are starting to be dispelled as myths, and the truths (facts) of the benefits and risks are emerging. I look forward to the published results in the next several years.”

Additional Activities: Blake engaged with the student chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics society about applying ergonomics principle in the workplace during his formal presentation “Communicating the Value of Ergonomics to Business Stakeholders.” Blake also met with Dr. Divya Srinivasan about her multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the impact of whole-body exoskeletons for advanced vocational enhancement.

Expert: Dr. Maury Nussbaum (PhD: University of Michigan) is the H.G. Prillaman Professor, Assistant Department Head, and Graduate Program Director in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.  His research is primarily focused on occupational ergonomics and injury prevention. Effects of Exoskeleton Use On Worker Performance, Health, and Safety in Manual Material Handling Tasks and Assessing Lower Extremity Postural Support Systems (exoskeletons) are just two of his current projects.