Damir from Almaty, he is 23-year-old student at Nazarbayev University. In the summer of 2016, the guy did his research in Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory at ETH Zurich thanks to the Shakhmardan Yessenov Foundation grant. During the internship professor Roger Gassert was Damir’s supervisor.
1. How did your interest to the chosen speciality started to grow?
Burnt-out lamp, a broken bicycle, crooked cabinet’s door – someone had to fix all of them, when I was a student of primary classes. Started as a usual business but an interest in mechanics and electrics begun to grow exactly then. Since I was accepted to Lyceum of physics and mathematics I started to learn programming and I got seriously involved in the subject courtesy my teacher Sergei Borim. It was him who was not only a professional who loved his subject, but also a wise man. He generously shared his life experience with the students, and for that I am very grateful to him. Being a high school student I found out that Nazarbayev University enrolls applicants for "Robotics and Mechatronics", which still includes the mechanics and the electrics, electronics and programming. And very soon — this year to be precise — I finish the university.
2. What was interesting to you in the competition of the Foundation for the internship grant?
While writing the essay I realized that during years at Nazarbayev University I participated in many interesting projects. But before I even haven’t paid attention to it. The most interesting stage of the competition was its second round. We held group interviews, carried out team tasks. Our every action, facial expressions, reaction to tricky questions, how we listened to the opinions of others – all this was attentively observed by psychologists that made notes. It was very interesting, but at the same time exciting because I didn't know what in my behavior had an importance for the evaluation of me as a candidate.
3. What was the internship?
The purpose of my internship was to improve the effectiveness of the variable stiffness actuator in exoskeleton VariLeg. This is a mechanical-electronic device, to facilitate human movement using the propulsion engines. It is used in medical rehabilitation aims to restore walking skills of people, for example, suffered a stroke. The uniqueness of the device, invented in this Swiss university, is in that it uses actuators that can reproduce a natural — almost like a human gait, and thus it takes much less energy than traditional counterparts. I specifically worked on electromechanical design and implementation of the drive mechanism. We have developed 4 models of mechanisms, and after joint presentation and discussion we selected the most appropriate concept and began to finalize it.
4. What have you achieved, how have internship helped you?
At the internship I developed a device allowing to block the motor in our mechanism and increase its energy efficiency by 60%. Undoubtedly this is quite an achievement. Robot VariLeg successfully participated in the 2016 Cybathlon competition, where the exoskeletons from around the world were exhibited. Except for the main reason of my stay in Switzerland, I liked amazing beauty of nature and neatness, thoroughness, tolerance of the Swiss. In Switzerland, people clearly separate work from the rest. I think it is an ideal country for research activities. I have found in Zurich a lot of friends, but also compatriots who helped me to feel myself home and to dull the homesickness. Beshbarmak is beshbarmak even in in Zurich. Now the thesis takes all of my time. It's developing stereovideo robot-Tensegrity (prednamerennoe structure consisting of rods and cables). Its a feature that even falling from height doesn’t change its form and is able to move on, continuing to fulfill its task. I received an invitation to study at the ETH Zurich master's degree, where upon graduation from Nazarbayev University, I will continue to work with Professor Gassert, but I am also waiting for answers from other universities where I can enroll for PhD studies. There are many ambitious plans, but I'm not ready to share them yet.