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William presents his research at the fall 2013 FURI symposium.
William L. started out in biomedical engineering because he wanted to be a surgeon. Once in classes, though, he found it just wasn’t the right fit. A friend from high school who had been on the FIRST Robotics team with William suggested that he try mechanical engineering. “My friend was working in the Biomechatronics Lab,” he explains. “In the lab next door, I met Professor Artemiadis.” Finding a passion for research Artemiadis, assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, is the director of the Human-Oriented Robotics and Control Lab (HORC). HORC focuses on the design, development and control of robotic devices that help humans in everyday life. “I feel a natural connection to robotics,” William says. “So many advancements can be achieved through robotics and mechanisms, for example, a prosthesis can help patients or amputees who don’t have full limb control get back to normal life.” William’s research in the HORC Lab focuses on developing a control system for the robotic mechanisms. His first project entailed an electromyographic (EMG) joint angle decoder which interprets the muscle signals from the brain. “Whenever you flex a muscle, your brain sends a signal to the muscle. The EMG sensor captures that signal and uses the muscle activation to control the robotic device. Previous systems use kinematics—which requires some force to control the device, creating a lag. The EMG system is faster, more versatile and more natural,” he says. William started working in the lab directly with Artemiadis. His most recent project was funded through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI). “One issue we run into using EMG signaling is that the electrode can shift and you won’t get the same muscle signal. So I turned my research to analyze EMG signals to see if there is a clear relationship between one signal and another,” he says. “We found that we can use a linear function to transform the shifted EMG signal back to the optimal placement on the muscle. This is beneficial for rehabilitation and even military applications,” he says. Pursuing new opportunities William is also in the Chinese Language Flagship program, an undergraduate program that prepares students for dual proficiency in professional-level Mandarin language and the academic major of their choice. “I wanted to connect to my heritage,” William says. “It’s exciting. There is so much that I want to learn but there isn’t enough time. This program gave me the opportunity to learn something that I’ve wanted to do for quite a while.” William took intensive language courses over the last two semesters. He will spend this summer at Beijing Normal University studying Chinese. Following his senior year, William will spend a year in China at Nanjing University and potentially an internship. “It will be interesting to work for a company and immerse yourself in the environment,” he says. In the meantime, William participates in the ASU Dust Devils and Arizona Mutineers dragon boat paddling team. Last year, the Mutineers took first place in the Hot Head Regatta, a boating event on Tempe Town Lake. William will be working to finish up his current research project before he leaves for China this summer. “I feel like if I had gone to another school it would be more difficult to get a funded position in research. Here at ASU you have so many opportunities for research and it’s affordable. ASU also offers quite a few scholarships so you don’t have to worry about having too much debt once you graduate,” he says. He says he looks forward to starting a new project when he gets back.