Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy In Engineering Degree


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Schearer, Eric


Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a promising technique for restoring the ability to complete reaching motions to individuals with tetraplegia due to a spinal cord injury (SCI). FES has proven to be a successful technique for controlling many functional tasks such as grasping, standing, and even limited walking. However, translating these successes to reaching motions has proven difficult due to the complexity of the arm and the goaldirected nature of reaching motions. The state-of-the-art systems either use robots to assist the FES-driven reaching motions or control the arm of healthy subjects to complete planar motions. These controllers do not directly translate to controlling the full-arm of an individual with tetraplegia because the muscle capabilities of individuals with spinal cord injuries are unique and often limited due to muscle atrophy and the loss of function caused by lower motor neuron damage. This dissertation aims to develop a full-arm FES-driven reaching controller that is capable of achieving 3D reaching motions in an individual with a spinal cord injury. Aim 1 was to develop a complete-arm FES-driven reaching controller that can hold static hand positions for an individual with high tetraplegia due to SCI. We developed a combined feedforward-feedback controller which used the subject-specific model to automatically determine the muscle stimulation commands necessary to hold a desired static hand position. Aim 2 was to develop a subject-specific model-based control strategy to use FES to drive the arm of an individual with high tetraplegia due to SCI along a desired path in the subject’s workspace. We used trajectory optimization to find feasible trajectories which explicitly account for the unique muscle characteristics and the simulated arm dynamics of our subject with tetraplegia. We then developed a model predictive control controller to iii control the arm along the desired trajectory. The controller developed in this dissertation is a significant step towards restoring full arm reaching function to individuals with spinal cord injuries.