In a lab in the U’s Craig H. Nielsen Rehabilitation Hospital, so new that plastic wrap and tape still enclose monitors and equipment cabinets, three or four middle school science teachers group around research assistant and recent MS graduate Bret Mecham, who is wearing a bionic exoskeleton on his arm.
The bionic arm moves up and down. “I’m not controlling this,” Mecham tells the audience, “He is—” indicating a teacher who is holding an electrode on his forearm. As the teacher flexes and relaxes, the electrode picks up electrical signals in his muscle. Those signals translate into mechanical motion by the bionic arm. Such an arm, Mecham says, can restore strength and stability to people who have lost them through disease or injury.