Investigating the Impact of Zero Gravity on Functional Muscle Movement

Project Date: Fall 2018
Collaborator: Muhammad Rafay Ashfaq

Project Description: The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) released a call for proposals for an experiment to be performed in Zero Gravity. My project proposed using Kinect skeleton tracking and electromyography sensors placed on the surface of the skin to measure muscle activity as my research partner performed various functional movements on earth and in zero gravity. Out of 400+ applicants, this project was selected as one of 20 finalists to be implemented on-board a parabolic flight. Finalists also attended a week-long educational seminar with MBRSC aerospace engineers, which included a visit to the Kennedy Space Center and knowledge-sharing discussions.

Technologies Used: Kinect skeleton tracking, electromyography sensor, signal processing and filtering

Collecting data as my colleague Rafay performs functional movements in zero-g

Media:
MBRSC Outreach
The National: UAE Students Take Flight in Zero Gravity
UAE Zero Gravity Competition Winners

Reflection:
This project helped me develop valuable skills related to experimental design, sensor data acquisition, and astrobiology. The quality of data collected was ultimately fairly poor due to the difficulty of performing movements in zero gravity and challenges with the Bluetooth connection from electromyography sensors, which meant that we could not draw reliable conclusions about the effect of zero gravity on muscle contraction. However, it was a valuable opportunity to learn more about future developments in the field of zero gravity research. A larger sample size would also be important for conclusive results. For future zero-g experiments, I would use a more self-contained design that requires fewer inputs from the researchers, because of the difficulty of maneuvering during short intervals of zero-g. As a whole, this experience contributed to my enthusiasm for aerospace research and forged connections that led to valuable future collaboration.

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