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Dartmouth College student invents device to help running injuries

Jun 08, 2016   |   by Cat Viglienzoni   |   WCAX-TV

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A Dartmouth student says he's inventing a device that could change the way runners' injuries are diagnosed.

The best part — he says runners wouldn't even know it was there.

Dartmouth College junior Robert Halvorsen isn't a runner, but the ultimate Frisbee player says he hears a common complaint from his friends on the track team — they're hurt and they're not always sure why.

"For a non-contact sport, running is incredibly injury-prone," said Halvorsen.

The engineering major describes himself as a problem-solver. So last year, as part of a class project, he and a group of classmates built the hardware for SmartSole.

"There's a device need out there for something that can actually measure, as you're running, real-time, what your foot does when it hits the ground. Yours personally, not some average person, you," said Halvorsen.

The challenge was keeping it noninvasive. And it doesn't get much less invasive than an insert about as thick as a laminated sheet of paper.

Tiny pressure senors are built in, connected by thin wires to a box on top. Halvorsen says the box is a bit clunky now, but when it's finished, it will be almost unnoticeable. The data is fed from that to the runner's smartphone via Bluetooth and gives them a real-time picture of the impact on their foot during each run.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: So, it's the ultimate app for running nerds?

Halvorsen: That's the hope! That's the hope!

He hopes runners will use SmartSole to figure out when their shoes are worn-out and it's time to get a new pair of kicks.

"Our audience for actually using the device is mostly recreational and professional runners, but the information that the device gives can be used by doctors, podiatrists, physicians in order to better inform how they treat their patients," said Halvorsen.

Halvorsen says medical professionals could use the SmartSole's data to pinpoint where injuries are coming from and help runners correct it. Right now, he says there isn't an affordable technology available to doctors. He says he's trying to take this one step at a time, but thinks they might have a prototype by the fall.

"It's kind-of surreal, to be honest," said Halvorsen.

So far, the last part they have to develop is the app, which they say should be ready soon. Then, they can get the prototype into development.

WCAX asked if it would work for different shoe sizes and Halvorsen says the beauty of the device is that it's pretty easy to scale up or down.

They're still trying to work out how they could get one into each shoe.

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