Editor’s note: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has opened up vast development space for the participating nations, facilitating profound growth and development. Young individuals from diverse countries have enhanced their understanding and achieved mutual success and growth through learning from each other. Their contributions demonstrate the vigor of youth in the pursuit of a shared future for mankind. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRI. In commemoration of this milestone, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) has launched the “Belt and Road Youth Stories” article series, recounting the endeavors of SJTU students in BRI.



Alemu Medhanit Yekunoamlak, from Ethiopia, is a second-year postgraduate student in the School of Mechanical Engineering, SJTU. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, where she received a full scholarship and several academic achievement awards. During her pursuit of a Master’s degree, she was granted a scholarship by the China Scholarship Council (CSC). Alemu’s research primarily focuses on wearable systems, particularly wearable static hand gesture recognition using soft acoustic waveguides.

Choosing SJTU for Devotion

“China is developing rapidly and is at the forefront of the world in many fields. Therefore, I chose to study here,” says Alemu. Her decision to attend Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) was motivated by several factors. Firstly, SJTU’s location in Shanghai provides her with ample opportunities to engage in cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and international collaborations. Additionally, SJTU is renowned for its top-tier mechanical engineering program, which aligns perfectly with Alemu’s academic interests.

After enrolling at SJTU, Alemu became a member of the Wearable Systems Lab, where she delved into the intricacies of human movement and motion alteration. This dynamic research environment is under the guidance of Professor Peter Shull and operates within the Institute of Robotics and the Biomechanics and Bio-Robotics Laboratory in the School of Mechanical Engineering at SJTU. Currently, the lab comprises 13 dedicated members.

The lab’s core focus revolves around studying human motion within controlled laboratory settings, medical facilities, or natural environments like homes and offices. By integrating principles from robotics, haptics, and biomechanics, the lab pioneers the development of distinctive sensors, real-time models, sensor fusion algorithms, and innovative feedback mechanisms.

The fruits of their labor hold tremendous promise for future applications, particularly in medicine and athletics. Potential applications include rehabilitation solutions for conditions such as osteoarthritis and stroke and advancements in sports performance, be it on the basketball court or the track.


Empowering Sports Rehabilitation through Wearable Systems

Alemu is an integral part of a research project on “Wearable Static Hand Gesture Recognition Using Soft Acoustic Waveguides”. This innovative endeavor centers on developing a hand gesture recognition system utilizing artificial skin embedded with soft, transparent, and stretchable ultrasonic waveguides. These sensors are designed to be worn on the body, allowing for the detection of finger joint movements.

The device engineered by Alemu and her research group stands as a pioneering achievement, being the first to employ soft ultrasonic waveguide-sensing skin for finger joint motion detection. This groundbreaking technology offers flexibility and adaptability to varying hand sizes without impeding finger dexterity. Its potential applications span many fields, including rehabilitation and sign language interpretation.

“I derive great satisfaction from my current research,” Alemu remarks, “especially knowing that it holds the potential to assist a wider spectrum of individuals.”


Collaboration and Camaraderie: Advancing Together

At SJTU, Alemu has found immense joy collaborating with her Chinese peers on group projects. “I’ve forged friendships that will last a lifetime, and they feel like family to me,” she remarks warmly. This sense of unity and friendliness permeates her social life and her experience within the laboratory.

“We operate as a highly cohesive team,” Alemu explains, highlighting the group’s collective spirit. “During our group meetings, we engage in discussions, provide valuable feedback, and hold one-on-one conversations with our professors to discuss the progress and future plans of our research.” Her mentor, Professor Shull, is a distinguished expert in the field, offering invaluable guidance and support at every step of her research journey. Furthermore, Prof. Shull provides opportunities for students to collaborate on projects with companies and international organizations, broadening their horizons.

The laboratory is well-equipped with a comprehensive array of cutting-edge electronic equipment, and Prof. Shull ensures that students have access to the necessary materials for their research endeavors. “I am currently collaborating with a senior PhD student who specializes in soft sensing,” Alemu shares, “We engage in mutual learning and collectively strive for progress.”

Building the Future, Marching Ahead

When asked about her future plans, Alemu shares, “I am currently contemplating whether to pursue a doctoral degree or embark on a professional career.” She further elaborates, “Nevertheless, one thing is clear—I wish to remain in China for an extended period to gain more experience and further enhance my proficiency in the Chinese language.” Alemu expresses high satisfaction with her ongoing research, the laboratory environment, the academic conditions at SJTU, and her life in the vibrant city of Shanghai. Hence, continuing her doctoral studies at SJTU emerges as a viable option.

After seeking advice from her mentor, she decided to undertake an internship to gain insights into the professional work environment, facilitating her decision-making process. With the support of her professor, she successfully secured an internship opportunity in Shanghai, embarking on a six-month journey. Alemu believes this experience will provide her with invaluable insights to make well-informed decisions regarding her future career path.

Source: News Center, School of Mechanical Engineering, SJTU

Translated by Wang Hui

Proofread by Zhao Xiaojing

Editor on Duty: Yan Cheng

Responsible Editor: Jiang Qianqian