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Heather Powell and WillowWoods' Matt Wernke awarded $4.6M from the Dept. of Health and Human Services to advance prosthetic and orthotic design


The Department of Health & Human Services has dedicated $4,625,000 to a multi-disciplinary team comprised of prosthetic device manufacturer WillowWood and members of The Ohio State Univeristy and the University of Kansas. 

Funding is part of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center Program on Prosthetics and Orthotics.  

Collectively working as the Innovative Design and Research for Enhancing Assistive Devices (IDEA) Center, the team of engineers, scientists, clinicians, and consumers will advance prosthetic and orthotic design to maximize performance, comfort, health, and embodiment. The IDEA center will use a multi-faceted approach, pursuing projects that advance the device and the human to create synergistic advancements in tissue assessment, device design and the tissue’s ability to resist breakdown. 

Funding supports four projects over five years: comparing the effect of a data driven socket design technique on limb health compared to standard of care techniques; evaluating technology to adapt the skin to be more resilient to pressure; developing a force sensing interface for prosthetic and orthotic applications; and developing an adaptable interface system to accommodate changes in limb presentation. 

Training and dissemination of the IDEA Center’s activities will be tailored toward each level of the educational and clinical audiences including high school, undergraduate, graduate, clinical professionals, and prosthesis and orthosis patients. Internship opportunities will be offered through the IDEA Center to provide individuals the opportunity to participate in the research, development activities and learn how to translate technologies into the commercial sector.  

The multi-disciplinary team working on this project include:

Innovative Design and Research for Enhancing Assistive Devices WillowWood Ohio State Materials Science and Engineering CDME
Clockwise from top left: Matt Wernke, Heather Powell, Daniel Gallego-Perez, Jonathan Miller, Megan Malara, Nate Ames

Co-Principal Investigators

Applied Research Engineer
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Department of Biomedical Engineering

The Ohio State University



Jonathan Miller (University of Kansas)
Online Applied Behavioral Science Program
Department of Applied Behavioral Science

University of Kansas

Daniel Gallego-Perez (Ohio State BME/Surgery)
Department of Biomedical Engineering
General Surgery

The Ohio State University

Director, Medical Modeling, Materials, and Manufacturing (M4)
Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence

The Ohio State University

Executive Director
Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence

The Ohio State University


The grant began this month and will continue until August 31, 2028.