Rocking all over world: Students prepare flight exercise aid for take off

A pioneering exercise aid designed to help long haul flight passengers and people with mobility problems could soon be hitting the market - and University of Sheffield students can claim a part in its success.

Photo of student Shamoil Khomosi at Mercedes surrounded by trophies

Indian student engineer Shamoil Khomosi helped transform the foot rocker invention from a mechanical device into a hi tech gadget - known as "Digital Health Rocka"  - able to measure movement and feed data back through its own phone based-app.

Shamoil and fellow student Alex McNabb got involved after local inventor Adam Yusuf asked the University for help to realise his vision for the Active Legs concept. 

Shamoil, a 20-year-old mechatronics and robotics student, said: “It was such a brilliant opportunity for me because it really complemented the theory of what I’d been learning but gave me real design freedom too. 

“It was comparable to working in industry because I was thrown in at the deep end and had to figure out the design and also juggle the reality of costs.

“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.” 

The University’s contribution to the project was partly funded by the Sheffield Innovation Programme, a University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University collaboration designed to help the growth of local businesses.

It is also part of the University of Sheffield’s own Made Together initiative – a series of commitments and collaborations designed to make South Yorkshire healthier, more vibrant, more sustainable and more innovative.

Pete Mylon & Adam Yusuf

Pete, a senior university teacher, said: “We’re really lucky at the University of Sheffield because we have the iForge, a student-led makerspace, which has a range of modern and traditional equipment, from 3D printers to woodworking."

“It’s a fantastic facility which Shamoil and Alex were able to use to build the early model. It is also really making a difference to local SMEs and complements the ethos of our Made Together commitments to the region. It’s a great facility for connecting with local companies which could not otherwise afford the technical help; during the pandemic we helped develop antimicrobial stationery and we are also working with Howard Music, the Sheffield whistle manufacturer.”

Shamoil, who spent the whole of last summer working on the Active Legs project, is now on a work placement at Mercedes’ Formula 1 manufacturing base and 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 experience of genuine engineering challenges. I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved. 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.”

Inventor Adam, who came to Sheffield from Somaliland in 1987, developed the idea for the Active Legs foot rocker in 2015 during long cramped flights in economy class between the UK and Far East.

He  said: “Working with the University has been a win/win for everyone. I got the technical expertise I needed, the University was able to work with a local start up and Shamoil got the chance for a very different kind of work experience which can go on his resume.” 

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.