Students of TU Ilmenau win competition with ’intelligent T-shirt’

Emma Stolpe presents the intelligent T-shirt at the world's leading electroEmma Stolpe presents the intelligent T-shirt at the world's leading electronics trade fair electronica

Students at Technische Universität Ilmenau have won the COSIMA competition of the Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies VDE at the world’s leading electronics trade fair electronica in Munich with their invention of an "intelligent T-shirt". Together, the three students and one female student implemented an idea of their professor and developed a sensor system that, integrated into a T-shirt, monitors the movements of the spine. In the future, the technology could be used in medical diagnostics and protect against back injuries.

"Whether standing, walking or sitting - in everyday life we tend to make incorrect movements," Michael Jung knows. In order to quickly detect and counteract bad posture, incorrect movements or simply too little movement, the Mechatronics student, together with a fellow student and two fellow students, has developed a system for monitoring the movement of the spine as part of the "Fundamentals of Biomechatronics" lecture. Two small, lightweight sensors are placed in cloth bags in the T-shirt between the shoulder blades and above the coccyx and record angular velocities and linear accelerations during movements. These values are used to calculate the inclination and rotation of the spine during walking, and the data collected by a microcontroller is transmitted wirelessly to a PC or smartphone and analyzed.

Students Emma Stolpe, Michael Jung, Mohamed Elsayed and Simon Leiniger implemented the intelligent T-shirt - an idea of their professor Hartmut Witte, head of the Biomechatronics Group at TU Ilmenau - as a student project. At the VDE’s COSIMA competition, held at electronica, the world’s leading electronics trade fair and conference in Munich, they just beat out teams from Hamburg, Karlsruhe and Munich. In their presentation, they not only presented the technical innovations of their intelligent T-shirt, they also had to present possible market prospects.

Every year in the VDE competition COSIMA ("Competition of Students in Microsystems Applications"), teams of technology-savvy students compete against each other who have developed new uses for sensors and microsystems in everyday life. The four Ilmenau students now have the opportunity to compete with their T-shirt at the international iCAN competition in Kyoto, Japan, next June with teams from numerous European countries as well as China, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and the USA.

The students and the Biomechatronics Group now want to further develop the sensor system. An app is planned that will display a warning message in the event of frequent incorrect movements and warn the wearer of the system of possible back problems if preventive measures are not taken by a doctor or physiotherapist. Movement analyses at the workplace, for example in the case of physically demanding activities, would also be possible through the use of the intelligent T-shirt.