Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering


Chemical and Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Schearer, Eric

Subject Headings

Biomechanics, Biomedical Engineering, Biomedical Research


Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a technology capable of improving the quality of life for those with the loss of limb movement related to spinal cord injuries. Individuals with high-level tetraplegia, in particular, have lost all movement capabilities below the neck. FES has shown promise in bypassing spinal cord damage by sending electrical impulses directly to a nerve or muscle to trigger a desired function. Despite advancements in FES, full-arm reaching motions have not been achieved, leaving patients unable to perform fundamental tasks such as eating and grooming. To overcome the inability in current FES models to achieve multi-joint coordination, a controller utilizing muscle activations to achieve full-arm reaching motions using equilibrium point control on a computer-simulated human arm was developed. Initial simulations performed on the virtual arm generated muscle activations and joint torques required to hold a static position. This data was used as a model for Gaussian Process Regression to obtain muscle activations required to hold any desired static position. The accuracy of the controller was tested on twenty joint positions and was capable of holding the virtual arm within a mean of 1.1 ± 0.13 cm from an original target position. Once held in a static position, external forces were introduced to the simulation to evaluate if muscle activations returned the arm towards the original position after being moved away within a basin of attraction. It was found that the basin of attraction was limited to a 15 cm sphere around the joint position, regardless of position in the workspace. Muscle activations were then tested and found to successfully perform movements between points within the basin. The development of a controller capable of equilibrium point controlled movement is the initial step in recreating these movements in high-level tetraplegia patients with an implanted FES.