Michael Zabala, PhD, MS, BS
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Zabala’s area of research is Biomechanical Engineering with a focus on human performance and injury prevention. Biomechanical Engineering utilizes the study of the human form, including how it moves and the forces involved, to engineer treatments or devices that can either augment movement, diagnose pathologies, or treat pathologies related to the musculoskeletal system. Some of the equipment used in the Auburn University Biomechanical Engineering (AUBE) Lab include motion capture cameras, force plates on the ground, pressure sensors in shoes, inertial measurement unit sensors that are worn on body segments to track motion, electromyogram sensors to detect muscle activation, 3D scanning technology, and 3D printing technology. Some of the research problems conducted in the AUBE Lab involve using machine learning to generate algorithms that control a lower-limb exoskeleton, design and development of an ankle and a knee exoskeleton, analysis of movement patterns in female athletes to detect risk of ACL injury, design of a system to measure lower limb prosthetic alignment in real time, and a device that automates the testing of neuropathy on the plantar surfaces of the feet. Another large effort that has arisen out of the AUBE Lab is a startup company called XO Armor (www.xoarmortech.com). XO Armor combines 3D scanning, made available on its smart phone app, and 3D printing to generate custom pads for athletes of all sports. Examples of some of the gear that have been made include shin guards, shoulder guards, thigh pads, lower-back guards, upper arm guards, and hand/wrist guards. XO Armor has made custom pads for football, soccer, basketball, softball, baseball, lacrosse, and hockey. Some of the organizations that currently use XO Armor custom pads are Auburn University, Clemson University, West Virginia University, Penn State, Michigan State, and the Atlanta Falcons. XO Armor has also made gear at the high school level in both Alabama and Georgia.