Project MARCH Students’ Exoskeleton Helps Paraplegics Walk Again


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When I was in college, I didn’t think much about helping make the world a better place; I just focused on making it to graduation. But some students from Delft University of Technology have found a way to do both. Project MARCH is made up of student volunteers who design and build futuristic exoskeletons that can help paraplegics walk. The students do most of the work themselves, including designing the various PCBs.

I saw their latest exoskeleton up close when Project MARCH exhibited at AltiumLive in Munich, and I had to find out more about this program. Delft Students Martijn van der Marel and Roy Arriens sat down with me to discuss their work on the exoskeleton, including their PCB design experience, and whether they plan to pursue PCB design as a career.

Andy Shaughnessy: Can you tell us a little bit about Project MARCH and this exoskeleton?

Martijn van der Marel: We are a student team from Delft University of Technology, which is one of the biggest technological universities in the Netherlands. We volunteered for a year to build this exoskeleton. With the exoskeleton, we help paraplegics walk again. Each year, we participate in a competition against other exoskeletons to improve the technology and see how far we’ve come.

Shaughnessy: The exoskeleton is pretty impressive. Are you all engineering students?

van der Marel: All students have a technical background, but within the team some of the students are in management and PR, but most of the students are in engineering roles.

Shaughnessy: How did this idea come about?

van der Marel: It started four years ago. Some other group initialized this exoskeleton project, and there were enough enthusiastic students who wanted to dedicate a year to building this exoskeleton. After that year, they continued their studies and recruited a new team of students to make an improved version. That has continued to this year.

Shaughnessy: Did you have to do your own fundraising to find the money necessary for this?

van der Marel: We find sponsors each year to do our own funding because we are self-dependent. We have dedicated people who attend events, find partners, and raise enough money to build an exoskeleton each year.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the March 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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