iCAN 2013 Barcelona: German team took first place – calls for an end to backaches

Würth Elektronik supporting young research team with WE-innovation study grant

Long periods sitting and standing and lack of exercise: This formula is root cause of many back problems. “Call for an end”, that’s what four students of the Saarland university thought, so they developed a back sensor system, collecting and analysing the posture. Würth Elektronik supported the young research team with their “Würth Elektronik innovation study grant”. Recently, the creative minds were awarded first prize during the international competition “iCAN 2013” in Barcelona, Spain.

Who doesn’t know the situation: Good New Year resolutions for more physical activity get lost in daily grind and laziness a few weeks later. What remains are more or less frequent backaches, our widespread disease number 1. The sensor system “Quasimodo” counteracts those effects. Quasimodo, the name of the “hunchback of Notre Dame”, stands for a system that shall help its wearer keeping the right posture, thus preventing backaches.

Four young students of the course of studies “microtechnology and nanostructures” at the Saarland University developed “Quasimodo“. The system consists of eight sensors distributed over the vertebral column. To ensure the sensors keep the right position, they are sewn into a functional shirt, which tightly fits the body. The sensors collect the vertebrae’s position and transfer those data to a microcontroller via Bluetooth to a smartphone where they are analysed via app and graphically displayed. The appropriate software had been developed by the same students, too.

Characteristic angles are being monitored in order to detect false posture: First, the sideward inclination where already smallest deviations from the perpendicular can cause damages. Second is the monitoring of the natural curvature of the lumbar vertebrae. That curvature, for example, disap-pears during slumped sitting and unhealthy bending. Once a dorsal vertebra exceeds a specified limit value over a longer period, a warning is given to the user to correct the posture.

“I liked this idea of Florian Bansemer, Franziska Emmerich, Tizian Schneider and Caroline Schultealbert from the first instance“, remembers Dr. Jan Kostelnik, head of R&D at Würth Elektronik. “The project is quite complex, but not only the subject but also the way they put this idea into practice, convinced me to support the team with our innovation study grant. One could really feel the fun the four students had during its progress.”

The young creative minds of the Quasimodo team (from left to right): Florian Bansemer, Franziska Emmerich, Caroline Schultealbert and Tizian Schneider

Last year, “Quasimodo” took the second place of the Germany competition COSIMA and that was their entry ticket for the international contest iCAN 2013 which had its highlight in Barcelona not long ago. ”We all were anticipating the exciting moment during the prize-giving“ remem-bers Kostelnik. “After almost all prizes had been handed over, there was only one team left – Quasimodo.”

There is great joy at Würth Elektronik, that the support and firm belief in the great team, the idea and successful realization has borne fruit. The cooperation is to be continued: “Now we are in the stage of producing sample shirts which will then be assessed together with physicians and therapists for their functionality and fitness. So, as a first step we will review the idea from the therapeutic point of view and I would like if we manage to make that shirt available to many people.” Dr. Jan Kostelnik says. The young creative minds are confident that the current prototype is far from tapping its entire potential – so things are to remain exciting.

Quasimodo’s features

Quasimodo, the name of the Hunchback of Nôtre Dame, stands for a system that shall help its wearer to keep the right posture, thus prevent back pain. By now, four application options are envisaged: Diagnosis, therapy, prophylaxis and research purposes. For example, the physician could put on the system to a patient in order to detect false posture and measure the same more precisely. That approach would avoid the need for X-ray imaging.

Where a back problem has already been diagnosed, the patient’s pain and disease progression could – among others – be significantly reduced once the patient pays attention on one’s correct posture. The shirt would warn the patient whenever identifying a false posture, train the patient’s individual awareness, thus teach the patient to keep a correct posture. For prophylaxis purposes, the shirt could be deployed to remind its wearer of regular physical activity after a long inactive period, for example in daily office routine. Last but not least, the system could be used to prepare motion studies of the most diverse nature.

The Quasimodo team

The Quasimodo team has four members, students of the course of studies “microtechnology and nanostructures” at the Saarland University: Florian Bansemer, Franziska Emmerich, Tizian Schneider and Caroline Schultealbert are now in their 5th bachelor studies’ semester.

About Würth Elektronik’s innovation scholarship

With their innovation studentship, Würth Elektronik CBT promotes innova-tive projects, targeting on development of new or exceptional application possibilities for PCB systems. The studentship’s purpose is to improve the communication of R&D results to the industry and transfer them into marketable technologies and products. Young high-qualified scientists from almost all disciplines are being promoted.