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Human Performance Lab

Matthew Marshall
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, Associate Professor

The Human Performance Lab (HPL) supports courses, research, and other projects that require the integration of humans into the design of systems.  The lab provides both space and equipment needed to support these activities. 

Courses:  The courses supported by the lab include Ergonomics, Human Factors, and Biomechanics.  Students use the equipment and instrumentation contained in the HPL to perform laboratory experiments that support the concepts covered during lecture.

Research:  The HPL provides the space and equipment needed to perform a variety of research experiments that support the interests of ISE students and faculty.  These activities include industrial-sponsored projects and experiments that support the thesis work of master’s degree students.

Other Activities:  Students also use the HPL to support projects that are part of other classes or activities not part of the ISE curriculum.  The lab is especially important in supporting the needs of the multi-disciplinary senior design program, as many of these projects require designing some kind of system in which a human is integrated.

Summary of Equipment and Instrumentation in Lab

Equipment for Measuring Physical Exertion:

  • BTE Work Simulator – the work simulator enables static human strength to be measured in a safe and reliable way.  It also allows for the simulation of industrial tasks such as using a screwdriver, gripping a handle, pinching an object, and many others. 
  • Electromyography – Electromyography (EMG) is a measurement of the electrical potential given off during a muscular contraction.  It is a useful way of characterizing the force produced by a human muscle.  The system consists of several pairs of surface electrodes and an EMG amplifier. 
  • Strain Gage Dynamometer – A dynamometer is a device that measures the force produced by the hand during pinch or power grip.  This particular device uses strain gage technology to provide an electronic reading of the force produced by the hand. Typically, this is used in combination with the EMG equipment.
  • Electrogoniometry – Electrogoniometry uses a linear potentiometer to measure the angular displacement between two end blocks.  The purpose of doing this is to measure the angle of human joints.  This has a number of applications, but we have used the equipment extensively for research purposes to measure the angular displacement, velocity, and acceleration of wrist movement during sign language interpreting. 
  • Metabolic Cart – Measurement of energy expenditure is important in the assessment of the physical demands of work.  A metabolic cart facilitates this measurement by monitoring the oxygen content in the air that is breathed in and expired out of the body during exercise.  The amount of oxygen absorbed by the body relates directly to the energy expended. 
  • Force Gages – In Ergonomics there is frequently a need to measure the amount of force required to lift, lower, push, or pull.  The lab has a digital and an analog force gage for these types of measurements.
  • Torque Measurement – A device to measure the torque required to open a container. 

Equipment for Measuring Environmental Exposures:

  • Thermal Monitors – Device measures a variety of thermal metrics including wet bulb, dry bulb, and wet bulb global temperatures.
  • Sound Level Meter –The device is used to measure sound pressure level in decibels in order to determine whether noise levels exceed recommended limits.
  • Light Meter – This device measures the lumination (light off a surface) and illumination (light on a surface) to evaluate the visual requirements of an environment.


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