University of Utah mechanical engineering associate professor Tommaso Lenzi, who is developing a bionic leg that enables an amputee to control a powered prosthesis, was the featured speaker for the 2023 William R. and Erlyn J. Gould Distinguished Lecture on Technology and the Quality of Life.

The lecture, titled “Building Bionics: How Technologies Are Going to Enhance the Human Body and End Physical Disability,” was held Wednesday, March 29, in the Gould Auditorium of the University of Utah Marriott Library.

Lenzi, who leads the Bionic Engineering Lab, is developing the Utah Bionic Leg, which uses intelligent control systems to enable individuals with amputation to perform activities that are impossible with conventional prostheses.

The Utah Bionic Leg is a computerized and motorized prosthetic for leg amputees that is powered and can help users walk with ease. The leg uses custom-designed force and torque sensors as well as accelerometers and gyroscopes to help determine the leg’s position in space. Those sensors are connected to an onboard computer processor that interprets the signals to determine the user’s intended movements. Based on that real-time data, the computer then controls the motors in the prosthetic joints to assist the user with the intended activity.

Past speakers in the series have included U mechanical engineering professor Kam Leang and Gretchen McClain, NASA’s former chief director of the International Space Station program and U mechanical engineering alumna.

Click below to see video of the lecture (the lecture begins at the 6:25 mark).

2023 Gould Lecture