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In the News

Focus on HERL


Research at VA's Human Engineering Research Laboratories has benefited many Veterans who use wheelchairs. Here, former Marine Corey Petersen tries the slalom course at the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games
Research at VA's Human Engineering Research Laboratories has benefited many Veterans who use wheelchairs. Here, former Marine Corey Petersen tries the slalom course at the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. (VA photo)

Research at VA's Human Engineering Research Laboratories has benefited many Veterans who use wheelchairs. Here, former Marine Corey Petersen tries the slalom course at the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. (VA photo)

On July 28, 2015, Time magazine's "Solutions That Matter" series of online videos focused on the Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL), based at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and the University of Pittsburgh. HERL's mission is to improve the mobility and function of people with disabilities through advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation.

The video included interviews with a number of HERL researchers, including Dr. Rory Cooper, the lab's director. Cooper said that the program's main goal is to provide full autonomy and full participation in society for people with disabilities. He pointed out that many HERL employees were disabled themselves, and that he himself is a disabled Veteran.

Among the projects HERL is working on is a large treadmill designed to help Veterans with prosthetic limbs adapt to their new equipment. HERL researchers are also working on brain-directed interfaces to help guide wheelchairs more efficiently; and the Strongarm, a robotically assisted device to help disabled Veterans transfer from their wheelchairs into beds or chairs.

Time also spotlighted the center's unique machine shop, which enables HERL to design and manufacture its own prototypes and parts. "We've got a lifetime of work ahead of us," concluded Cooper.


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