October 24, 2018 | Simon Jenkins
“It wasn’t something I knew anything about at all,” says Martin Levesley, recalling his first meeting with Bipin Bhakta from the Faculty of Medicine and Health.
“My field was aerospace,” says Martin, now Professor of Dynamics and Control in the School of Mechanical Engineering. “I’d come to Leeds to work on vibration engineering, so Bipin’s idea came completely out of the blue.”
The idea was simple: “He asked if we could build a robot which would mimic the work of a physiotherapist and would help people who have suffered strokes to regain the use their arms and hands. He said ‘You’re an engineer, surely you could do this. How hard can it be?’ It was a fascinating challenge.”
20 years on, MyPAM has been used by stroke patients – and shown to help their recovery. “When we started we had no idea whether this would work,” says Martin. “We’re now confident it does. There isn’t anything else out there which will recreate traditional physiotherapy.”
Sadly, Professor Bhakta did not live to see his dream reach fruition. He died in 2014, and now Martin is passionately determined to deliver on the vision of his friend and colleague: “I have 10 or 15 years left in my own career. I just want to see this happen.
“After all, to echo Bipin’s question, how hard can it be?”