Dr Raymond Holt

Profile

I graduated from Leeds with BEng (Hons) 1st Class in Mechanical Engineering in 2001, and subsequently completed a PhD in Mechanical Engineering also at Leeds in 2005, before taking up a post as lecturer on the Product Design programme here at Leeds. My PhD research concerned decision support in design for manufacture, and in developing the associated decision support tools, I became interested in the human factors of decision support - the need for tools that can actually fit in with design practices rather than needing to dictate them. As I have increasingly become involved in our rehabilitation robotics work at Leeds, this has extended to the challenges of supporting design decisions in rehabilitation, assistive technology and also inclusive design. This incorporates both the challenges of engaging users and other stakeholders (particularly groups such as children who present particular challenges) in the design of complex equipment and the challenges of measuring and assessing motor capabilities to determine the suitability of designs.

Responsibilities

  • Deputy Director of Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation

Research interests

My research is principally concerned with the mechanics of prehension: the ability to grasp and manipulate objects around us. Almost every daily activity relies on a degree of dexterity and manual capability, from feeding and dressing oneself to writing and interacting with technology. When this is impaired (whether due to injury or illness), the consequences are severe. My research therefore looks at two solutions to this: reducing the demands placed on our prehensile abilities through better design; and improving prehensile capabilties through training - whether to recover function after a stroke or spinal injury, for example, or to improve capabilities in children, surgeons or technicians who must master fine manipulation. In particular, I focus on:

  • Using engineering dynamics methods to identify how object properties (such as size, shape and surface) and individuals’ capabilities (such as hand size, grip strength, co-ordination) affect the ability to manipulate objects in the ways required by activities of daily living.
  • Developing tools for measuring these capabilities and demands in the field (for example, in schools, homes and hospitals - such as the ongoing Born in Bradford project);
  • Developing therapeutic and assistive technologies to improve individual’s prehension, with a particular emphasis on play-based therapy;
  • Developing decision support tools to aid inclusive design: by helping designers to predict the capability demands their concepts place on individuals, we aim to raise awareness of where they are causing design exclusion, and what they can do to reduce this; and
  • The effects of postural stability on manual skills, and how postural deficits can be addressed through supportive seating.

This means working closely with psychologists, physiotherapists, clinicians and sociologists to develop workable technologies, and ensure that the systems developed are driven by the needs of end users rather than by technological considerations. To this end, I am part of both the multidisciplinary Perception Action Cognition lab and the Centre for Disability Studies as well as institutes within Engineering.

Qualifications

  • BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering (Leeds)
  • PhD Mechanical Engineering (Leeds)
  • Postgraduate Certificate of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Leeds)

Professional memberships

  • Associate Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Student education

I teach mechanical design and ergonomics to undergraduate Product Design and Mechanical Engineering students, as well as supervising dissertation projects on the subjects of ergonomics and inclusive design.

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation
  • Robotics at Leeds

Publications:

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