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Volume 1
2006

Biomechanics: Designing for Life

  • Robert P. Hubbard
  • Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Colleges of Engineering
  • Department of Osteopathic Surgical Specialities
  • Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
Robert Hubbard in the LEAP chair that he developed
Photo by Photo by Harley J. Seeley, IMC Image & Design Group
Robert Hubbard in the LEAP® chair that he developed.

Robert Hubbard has achieved international acclaim for his bioengineering research on human spinal mechanics and product development. With his background in mechanical engineering and collaboration from osteopathic physicians, Dr. Hubbard and his students developed biomechanical models and measurement technologies to represent human torso shape and movement that are being used to design and assess new products in automotive and office seating, most notably the LEAP® office chair of Steelcase. Hubbard also invented the HANS® head and neck support, which is mandated in major car racing series around the world.

In 1985, he founded Biomechanical Design Inc., a SmartZone startup company. Of his work and the company, Hubbard said, "Bioengineering problems are interdisciplinary. Several years ago, I decided to reach beyond traditional academic boundaries and try to influence people by helping design products that provide biomechanical benefits."

His work for product development beyond academia has been the basis for his research and teaching, with many basic and applied studies that have been funded predominantly by Michigan companies. Twenty years ago, he started a class that now draws approximately 120 engineering and 80 marketing students who work in teams to identify unmet market needs, and define, prototype, and market test new products targeted to those needs.

Lansing Area SmartZone

MSU has joined forces with the cities of Lansing and East Lansing to establish the Lansing Regional SmartZone. The goal of the SmartZone is to grow technology-based commercial opportunities in the Lansing area by commercializing research and development efforts of corporations, private research institutes, and the University.