Assistive Technology Expert To Helm Georgia Tech Research Center

Stephen Sprigle, former director of the Center for Rehabilitation Technology in New York, now is an associate professor of industrial design and director of the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

CATEA, a unit within Georgia Tech's College of Architecture, develops and evaluates accessible environments and assistive technology -- devices designed to allow or improve performance of activities of daily living or work for the disabled.

"This is an excellent pairing for both the center and the college," said Thomas Galloway, dean of Georgia Tech's College of Architecture. "Dr. Sprigle's background in biomedical engineering and his experience addressing unique challenges affecting the disabled community will prove to be strong assets to CATEA and its research staff."

In addition to his duties as CATEA's director, Sprigle holds an adjunct appointment in Georgia Tech's School of Applied Physiology and will continue a collaborative research relationship with The Shepherd Center, an Atlanta-based catastrophic care hospital that treats people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular illnesses and urological problems.

"The staff within CATEA appears dedicated to their mission, and that results in a lot of self-motivation to do a good job," Sprigle said. "Any director in any organization feels fortunate to be among self-driven folks, so I look forward to working at Tech."

Since 1996, Sprigle has directed the Center for Rehabilitation Technology at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, NY. The center offers comprehensive services in assistive technology, especially in the areas of seating, mobility, computer access, augmented communications for the disabled and environmental controls.

During his term at the Center for Rehabilitation Technology, Sprigle held a faculty appointment as assistant professor of clinical physical therapy at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He also was a senior lecturer for the Graduate School of Health Sciences for the New York Medical College.

Previously, Sprigle was a senior research scientist and adjunct professor of mechanical engineering and occupational therapy at the State University of New York at Buffalo between 1993 and 1996. He also was a member of the research staff for the Transportation and Wheelchair Rehabilitation Engineering Centers in the University of Virginia's Biomedical Engineering Department between 1987 and 1993.

Sprigle remains an active consultant for a variety of biomedical engineering companies and frequently speaks on the topics of pressure ulcers and the engineering aspects of wheelchairs. Among his many research interests are rehabilitation engineering, assistive technology and biomechanics. He also has a special interest in the areas of pressure-ulcer prevention, posture stability among wheelchair users, assistive technology outcomes, and the development of standards for wheelchair cushions and support surfaces.

"For someone who has spent his career in both rehabilitation research and service delivery, CATEA's position and mission represent a fantastic opportunity for me," Sprigle said. "CATEA is quite unique in that it offers the scientific allure of being within an excellent university, but its mission includes significant interaction and service within the disability arena."

Sprigle also said he is impressed by CATEA's ability to extend the state-of-the-art through research as well as apply the state-of-the-art through its service programs.

"But this ability comes with the obligation to share this knowledge through publication and presentation," he said. "The center's faculty and staff infuse themselves with the community of the Institute and work well with other departments and faculty. This is imperative, since CATEA has a lot to offer others and gains a lot from collaboration."

Sprigle is a member of the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel's Board of Directors and of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. He also is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Physical Therapy Association.

Sprigle earned his bachelor's degree in engineering science and mechanics from the University of Florida in 1982. He went on to earn a master's degree in biomedical engineering in 1985, followed by a Ph.D. in biomechanics in 1989, both from the University of Virginia. He earned an additional master's degree in 1998, this time in physical therapy from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.