Kat Steele is a mechanical engineer at the University of Washington. In addition to teaching, she is developing new way to help people move better, including an exoskeleton to help children with cerebral palsy. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – Kat Steele
KAT STEELE (Mechanical Engineer):
Can I get a high five this time? Oh yeah! I'm Kat Steele and I'm a mechanical engineer. I grew up in Colorado. And growing up, my mom and dad were both engineers. And that introduced me from a really early age into the exciting problems that engineers tackle and solve on a day to day basis. One summer I was lucky enough to work at a hospital. And that's where I really fell in love with applying my engineering knowledge to problems with healthcare and medicine. It made me decide to pursue mechanical engineering where I can study what I consider to be the ultimate machine, the human body, to help make our daily lives better. Becoming a professor, I get to not only teach, but I also get to pursue research so that we can keep working on these exciting problems. Our lab here at the University of Washington, we focus on both understanding how people move and then developing new ways to help people move better. In particular, we work a lot with kids who are having trouble learning how to walk, and learning how to move. An exo-skeleton is a device that you can wear on your body to help support and assist your movement. For this device, for kids, we're in particular focusing on helping kids who have trouble moving. And in this case, mainly kids with cerebral palsy. Ready to do some walking?
STEELE: It's actually inspired by biology. It has a long tendon, which is like a big spring that connects your muscles to your bone that goes all the way from the hip, the top of the leg, down to the foot. And that was actually inspired by horses, who have really long tendons that make it easier for them to walk and move. Mason, how does it make you feel to wear it?
STEELE: With Mason, he's one of the first people to come in and test this new exo-skeleton and he can help us not only understand whether these devices can help him or kids like him to walk better, but they can also give us feedback on how they look, if they're comfortable, and if they're things that they might actually be able to wear on a daily basis to help them walk, move, and play. Whoa! You are going so fast! One of the core principles that we use in all of our research is focusing on inclusive design. And so that's the idea that whenever you're designing a product, a new space or environment, or an experience, that you're thinking about and considering how we can make it as accessible to everyone. I love engineering because I get to work on tough problems every day with a really fantastic team. And so we get to be creative, we get to design together, and we get to tackle what we think are really pressing needs for our community. Nice job!
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