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Rebuilding Neural Connections

 February 12, 2016 | Fred Higson

“It’s about rebuilding neural connections,” says Adam Metcalf, whose engineering device is helping people with cerebral palsy or who have suffered strokes to improve their strength and range of movement. “It’s just like physiotherapy, but with a robot,” he explains.

An earlier version of the device, developed by Leeds engineers, is already in use in hospitals in the city. “That has a lot of gears and is quite technical and very expensive,” says Adam. “What I’m building is a version which can be cheap enough for people to use in their own homes, which will obviously allow them to be on it for longer – and potentially get more benefit.”

Winning the Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship is just the latest stage in a remarkable academic journey for a student who initially failed his A-levels. “I joined the Army and served for five years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan. It was physically hard, but after a while I got bored; it wasn’t mentally tough. I was repairing trucks and thinking ‘I could have built this better myself’.”

After taking an Access course, Adam was admitted to the University in 2014 and within a few months had successfully applied for the Scholarship. “The route I’m taking now is completely unexpected,” he admits. “But it’s going really well and I’m now thinking long term about a career in robotics.”

Rebuilding Neural Connections