Professor Joo Kim’s Robotic Exoskeletons Make a Splash in Shanghai

At NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Professor Joo Kim is widely celebrated for his work on wearable robotic exoskeletons meant to lend their users increased mobility and strength. While his research could help military personnel who need to carry heavy loads over long distances and people in the construction industry, it has particularly exciting applicability for those with disabilities affecting the lower limbs.

In mid-March, Kim was a featured guest at the Assistive Technology Workshop in Shanghai, which brought together the NYU Shanghai community, international professionals, and individuals with disabilities to brainstorm solutions for people with varying needs.

While Kim employs a combination of high-tech, lightweight materials and sophisticated algorithms in the design and fabrication of the exoskeletons, another presenter—social entrepreneur and MacArthur Fellow Alex Truesdell—discussed working at the other end of the spectrum: she creates low-tech, exceptionally affordable tools and adaptive furniture using cardboard.

Professor Marianne Petit, who teaches in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at Tisch and directs the Interactive Media Arts Program at NYU Shanghai (a co-sponsor of the event), co-authored the grant that made the workshop possible, along with Professor Anita Perr of Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy. (Both professors are core participants in NYU’s Ability Project, a multi-school collaborative housed at Tandon.)

If one important idea was reaffirmed during a weekend packed with lectures, discussions, and hands-on sessions, it was that making the world a more adaptable and inclusive place will take the combined efforts of visionary engineers like Kim, socially conscious entrepreneurs like Truesdell, occupational therapists, physical therapists, designers, and a host of others.