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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 9, 2007

UI Engineer Receives $200,000 Caterpillar Grant To Study Vibration

A University of Iowa researcher has received a $200,000 grant from Caterpillar Inc. of Peoria, Ill. to study whole body vibration.

Dr. Salam Rahmatalla, a research engineer at the Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) Program, located within the College of Engineering's Center for Computer-Aided Design (CCAD), is conducting research in the area of seat comfort, motion capture, and low and high frequency vibrations. In addition to Caterpillar, he notes that the results of the study will be of considerable interest to manufacturers of heavy construction equipment and the military.

Epidemiological studies have shown that chronic whole-body vibration exposure, as experienced in large military and construction vehicles, has long been associated with neck and back pain and injury, Rahmatalla says.

"Obtaining experimental data of human response to varied vibration conditions would be a significant first step in understanding the problem. The development of a more general computer model of human response to vibration is a second necessary step to predict human response to wider scenarios where it is very hard or even impossible to use human subjects," he says.

The starting point for such a model is the VSR program and its virtual soldier model, called Santos™. VSR is developing a complete biomechanically accurate human model capable of testing various concepts ranging from body armor design to vehicle design while performing different tasks typically assigned to a soldier. The interdisciplinary effort involves engineers, medical doctors, physiologists, computer graphics professionals, and experts in many other disciplines.

Rahmatalla says that his long-term VSR objective is to develop a virtual human capable of reproducing complex human responses to a whole body vibration environment that will help answer questions related to potential injury risks and design modifications. To that end, he notes that not only modeling, but also some human experimentation, likely will be needed in the development and validation of any realistic human model.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

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