UCLan teams up with ASTM International for inaugural event
The next generation of engineers has come together to advance exoskeleton technology through an international competition involving student teams from around the world.
Organised and hosted by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), in partnership with ASTM International's Exo Technology Center of Excellence, the inaugural Exo Games brought together six student teams from the UK, USA, Belgium and Brazil to compete against each other in designing an exoskeleton and testing it against a suite of standards judged by members of ASTM's F48 Exoskeleton and Exosuit committee.
The global exoskeleton industry market in terms of revenue currently sits at $0.7 billion and is expected to reach $3.7 billion by 2028. Devices are used in a variety of industries that are labour-intensive, to support the wearer to complete their job more efficiently, and in healthcare to help with rehabilitation.
Each team designed an exoskeleton that was tested for stability, wearability, support and agility against ASTM International standards.
"An exoskeleton is a mechanical device that helps you to be better at what you need to do. Maybe help you be faster, more agile or even stronger."— William Billotte, Director of Global Exo Technology Programs at ASTM International
William Billotte, Director of Global Exo Technology Programs at ASTM International, was one of the judges at the event.
He said: “An exoskeleton is a mechanical device that helps you to be better at what you need to do. Maybe help you be faster, more agile or even stronger.
“We’re very passionate about STEM and through this event we’re connecting innovation and research with standards to help the students understand how they all work together. The Exo Games is a way to bring together the passion, the ideas and inspire people to do better.”
The inaugural Exo Games were three years in the making by the Exo Technology Center of Excellence and ultimately coming to fruition through the partnership with UCLan. The Games emulated the success of the annual Formula Student engineering competition, where students from around the world design, build, test, and race a small-scale formula style racing car.
"Working with ASTM, we were keen to launch a project that is led by students who can work together to not only build exoskeletons, but build them to a good and safe industry standard."— Dr Matthew Dickinson, Senior Lecturer in Mechatronics at UCLan
Dr Matthew Dickinson, a Senior Lecturer in Mechatronics at UCLan, has a vast amount of experience working with exo technology and has used his knowledge to build a working version of superhero equipment like Iron Man’s armour.
Matthew has been instrumental at bringing the Exo Games to fruition and used his links with ASTM to develop the competition to link university students together and with companies involved in the exo technology industry.
“Working with ASTM, we were keen to launch a project that is led by students who can work together to not only build exoskeletons, but build them to a good and safe industry standard,” he said.
Aiden Waite, who recently graduated from UCLan with a masters degree in mechanical engineering, led the UCLan team in the Games.
He said: “We had a short deadline and worked hard to deliver an exoskeleton that we hope industries around the world would be proud of. I’m so pleased with how the event turned out, especially seeing it attract entries from around the world.”
"The Exo Games has brought together the next generation of engineers who will be ones to advance this technology to benefit people and industries in the future."— Dr Matthew Dickinson, Senior Lecturer in Mechatronics at UCLan
Tiago Gunther from Texas A&M University travelled to UCLan as part of a team of four to take part.
He said: “I’ve researched how exoskeletons can help people working in the emergency services so our device focuses on supporting the lower back with load bearing. This event is good for me because I want to go to graduate school and it demonstrates my ability to work in a multi-disciplinary setting.”
UCLan were crowned the overall winners of the event but Matthew stressed that by simply taking part the participants were pushing the industry forward.
He added: “The Exo Games has brought together the next generation of engineers who will be ones to advance this technology to benefit people and industries in the future. We can’t wait to build on what we’ve achieved and hopefully open up the Exo Games to an even bigger audience next year.”