2012

Put Yourself in Someone Else's Legs

Alena Grabowski earned her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder Locomotion Laboratory in 2007 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Biomechatronics Group at MIT in 2011. She seeks to better understand the interaction of physiology and biomechanics during human locomotion; specifically how the implementation of wearable mechanical devices, such as prostheses and exoskeletons, influence walking, running, hopping, and sprinting. In this Ted talk, Alena tells of how she was part of the research team that enabled amputee Oscar Pistorius, to qualify for the South African Olympic track team. The controversy that surrounds running specific prostheses is vast; Oscar Pistorius was accused of having an unfair advantage and banned from sprinting initially. Alena's team studied the metabolic cost, rate of fatigue, and biomechanics of an amputee sprinter vs a non-amputee sprinter. Their research proved that an amputee sprinter had no greater advantage than an able bodied athlete. Oscar Pistorius successfully appealed and won the right to compete in the recent 2012 London Olympics. "The meaning of the word 'disabled' needs to be rewritten."