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It was in 1987 that inventor Adam Yusuf sat cramped in economy class on a long flight from Somaliland in the Far East to Sheffield in the UK. In 2015, this experience spurred him to develop the idea for the Active Legs foot rocker.
In 2022, Shamoil Khomosi, a 20-year-old Indian student at Sheffield University, turned the foot rocker from a mechanical device to a high-tech gadget, and named it the Digital Health Rocka. It was now able to measure movement and also feed data back through its own mobile app.
The new and upgraded device could now help long-haul flight passengers and also those with mobility issues such as the elderly. The pioneering exercise aid could soon be hitting the market.
Shamoil and fellow student Alex McNabb had gotten involved after local inventor Adam Yusuf asked Sheffield University for help to realise his vision for the Active Legs concept.
Mechatronics and robotics student Shamoil jumped at the opportunity. The project complemented the theory of what he had been learning and gave him the chance to freely explore the design aspect of it as well.
“It was comparable to working in the industry because I was thrown in at the deep end and had to figure out the design and also juggle the reality of costs,” Shamoil says.
“It was the pandemic, in part, that pushed me to join this project. After spending an entire year of my engineering degree virtually, I decided to turn my study desk into a maker space and put my hands-on skills to the test,” says the young innovator.
“And once we started progressing with the foot-rocker, it was the team’s open and collaborative atmosphere, coupled with the positive feedback we received from potential users, that inspired me to evolve the idea further,” he says.
“The really great thing for me was the fact that we all got on so well Adam, Mohamed, Alex, myself, and Pete Mylon who led the project for the Sheffield Innovation Programme,” Shamoil adds.
Adam Yusuf’s Active Legs foot rocker model was a mechanical device, but Shamoil and the youngsters on the Sheffield University team wanted to upgrade it with digital features.
“We found great potential in building a foot-rocker that could provide users data-based insights associated with their leg movements. These insights, for example, included the range, frequency, and speed of the foot’s rocking action,” explains Shamoil.
To materialise this idea, the team designed an electronic prototype built with off-the-shelf components that could be installed inside the foot rocker.
To wirelessly communicate and gather data from the electronic sensors, they also developed an Android application that acted as a user-friendly interface for the Digital Health Rocka.
“We were faced with several technical constraints while building this prototype — such as compactness, low cost, rechargeable and long battery life, and accurate footstep measurement to name a few,” he says.
“In hindsight, these constraints inspired us to innovate without compromising the device’s unique mechanical features,” Shamoil adds.
The England-based University of Sheffield runs a Sheffield Innovation Programme in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University to help local businesses grow.
The varsity’s contribution to the ‘Digital Foot Rocka’ project was funded partly by this programme.
The project is also part of the varsity’s own Made Together initiative a series of commitments and collaborations designed to make South Yorkshire healthier, more vibrant, more sustainable, and more innovative.
The University of Sheffield also boasts of the iForge, a student-led makerspace with a range of modern and traditional equipment — from 3D printers to woodworking.
Shamoil and Alex used the iForge to build the early model of the Digital Health Rocka. The facility is also a boon for local SMEs which may not be able to afford the technical help otherwise.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the varsity also helped develop antimicrobial stationary, and is now working with the Sheffield whistle manufacturer, Howard Music.
Shamoil Khomosi spent the while of last summer working on the Active Legs project and is now working at the Mercedes’ Formula 1 manufacturing base.
He believes that combining his practical studies with actual, real-world industrial experience will equip him with the skills he needs to find the job he wants.
“I’d never have got the chance to be involved if it hadn’t been for the Sheffield Innovation Programme and the way it works with SMEs to give students the experience of genuine engineering challenges,” he says.
“The feedback from care homes helped us see just how valuable the product could really be for elderly people too and also helped us improve the prototype,” says Shamoil.
Adam’s foot rockers are currently going through the patenting and Intellectual Property (IP) process and he is working with Sheffield company ‘We Do 3D’ to produce 100 each of two versions over the summer.
Adam, who also chairs the Sheffield Somali Community Association, ISRAAC Centre, is meanwhile considering gaming applications for the invention.
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