University of Galway graduate wins global recognition for project to help people with Parkinson’s disease

Amber Dowling, award-winning graduate in Mechanical Engineering from University of Galway, pictured in Boston Scientific with the cobot she used to develop a non-intrusive means of steadying hand tremors for those affected with Parkinson’s disease. Credit: Aengus McMahon.
Dec 19 2022 Posted: 15:26 GMT

University of Galway graduate Amber Dowling has been rated in the top 16 student engineers in the world, with a Highly Commended award in the Global Undergraduate Awards for her work on a project to help people with Parkinson’s disease. 

In addition to being highly commended globally, the graduate of the University’s Mechanical Engineering programme was also awarded the Undergraduate Award in Engineering for the Island of Ireland.

Having completed her professional experience work placement with Boston Scientific in Galway, the company continued to support Amber Dowling’s use of their collaborative robot, or cobot, a type of robot that can work alongside humans in a shared, collaborative space, when she returned to University to complete her final year project. 

Amber Dowling’s project provides a non-intrusive means of steadying hand tremors for those affected with Parkinson’s disease. The Mechanical Engineering graduate designed and 3D-printed a modified glove which attaches to the flange of the cobot. 

Together with the software program written by Amber, the glove transfers the tremor energy to the cobot which filters out these tremors. Amber was guided by universal design principles in her design whilst also incorporating safety features. 

Amber, from Slieverue, Co Kilkenny, said: “I am incredibly grateful to have received this award, and honoured to be counted amongst the top 10% of engineering students in the world. I wanted to explore the use of collaborative robots outside of industry, and engage the possibilities of the symbiosis between humans and cobots.”

Amber carried out the work as a part of her final project for her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, supervised by Dr Martina Kelly, and mentored by Julio Zanon, Engineering Fellow at Boston Scientific. 

Dr Martina Kelly, Amber’s supervisor in the School of Engineering at University of Galway, said: “Amber’s project was an excellent demonstration of the confluence of mechanical engineering, advanced automation and human-centred design.” 

Dr Nathan Quinlan, Head of Mechanical Engineering at University of Galway, said: “This was a truly excellent feat of engineering by Amber, creating a solution for real human needs, to make lives better. It shows how placements, with industry partners like Boston Scientific, can help our students to launch their engineering careers.”

Professor Walter Gear, Executive Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at University of Galway said: “Congratulations to Amber on her well-earned award. This project is another example of the world-leading work the University does in our many partnerships with advanced industry based in and around Galway."

Amber Dowling highlighted how she believes her work on the project is just the beginning, and intends to continue her engineering career with cobots.

She added: “Cobots have capabilities I feel aren't yet fully explored, and it's exciting to think of the developments ahead. I'm furthering my education in automation and controls, and hope to pursue it as a career. This project has shown me that there is much more to come in applications of cobots.” 


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