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Human Performance Lab (HPL)

Originally Posted on October 24, 2012 

Conducting research that impacts the saftey of top gun fighter pilots, Navy SEALS and NASA astronauts is just some of the work that takes place in the College of Education and Human Services' Human Performance Lab (HPL)

Under the direction of Associate Professor Ken Sparks, the HPL collaborates with external partners to provide physiological testing that"s used to devise products and solutions for real-life problems.

One such problem. with the potential to impact national security, is hypoxia ( lack of oxygen)- high in the air and deep beneath the sea. Recently, the Air Force grounded its entire fleet of F-22 Raptors when pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms.

"Our lab is set up to measure physiological variables in human performance," says Dr. Sparks.

For the Air Force hypoxic study, the physiology of volunteer subjects (often students )was tested under conditions that simulated an altitude of 25,000 feet. The data was turned over to local firm Orbital Research, which developed a sensor that connects to the face mask worn by fightes pilots and monitors their physiologic changes. CSU's lab will conduct further research on the usefullness of the sensor in predicting the onset, detecting the occurrence and issuing a warning of hypoxia.

In a similar project, CSU and Orbital are working with the Navy SEALS to monitor the health condition of submerged divers. Subjects were tested in the lab's underwater tank. The goal is to develop sensors that can be integrated into scuba systems, allowing the heart rate, breathing and body temperature of divers to be monitored from the surface.

The HLP is collborating with Orbital in developoing a harness for astronauts to wear under their space suits. The harness has five snap-in electrodes to monitor heart rate and electrocardiographic tracing.

And recently, the HPL collected data for the Defense Department. Subjects were montored in the lab's lower body neagative pressure chamber that simulates internal bleeding. Orbital hopes to use the data to develop a sensor glove that can rapidly assess fallen soldiers on the battlefield .

Each year, 100 to 150 exercise science students, mostly at the master's level, participate in projects in th HPL, either as research assistants who are collecting and analyzing data, or as test subjects. Faculty from across the University also participate, as many projects are interdiciplinary.

Last year, Orbital received the College's Partner of the Year award. The HPL also works with the Cleveland Clinic and other local and national firms and an Australian company recenltly contacted Dr. Sparks about partnering with the lab.