Pilot Projects

NCSRR awards seed grants for innovative, well-designed pilot projects to accelerate the development of advanced simulation techniques and the use of simulations in rehabilitation research.

Program Description

Pilot Project Program Awardees


Frequently Asked Questions


Hamner, S.R., Seth, A., Delp, S.L. Muscle contributions to propulsion and support during running, Journal of Biomechanics, vol 43, pp 2709-2716

Program Description

NCSRR’s pilot projects program is designed to encourage new collaborations and innovative ideas for utilizing simulations within medical rehabilitation.  Projects should have a strong scientific component and demonstrate a clear alignment with the NCSRR’s mission.  

Pilot project awardees may receive funding up to $40,000 for their research.  In addition, the program launches awardees into leadership roles within the NCSRR network. 

Pilot Project Program Awardees

We got an outstanding response to our call for proposals this year, which made our decision difficult. Given the high-caliber of the applicant pool, we carefully reviewed the applications among our internal team and with the NSCRR Scientific Advisory Board. 

Based on this review, we identified the following proposals for awards. We selected two applicants for full Pilot Project Awards ($20,000 each) and five applicants for Outstanding Researcher Awards ($5000 each), and seven applicants for Travel Awards ($2000 each).


2014 Full Pilot Award Winners

Frank Sup, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 
An improved musculoskeletal model of below-knee amputees to aid in prosthetic design

Katherine Steele, University of Washington
Evaluating the theoretical and functional impacts of a synergy-based control strategy using OpenSim


2014 Outstanding Researcher Award Winners

Dennis Anderson, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Development of a detailed musculoskeletal model of the thoracic spine and rib cage in OpenSim

Ray Browning, Colorado State University
Effect of childhood obesity and lower extremity alignment on joint loading during locomotion

Dominic Farris, University of Queensland
Comparing measured & simulated lower limb muscle fiber lengths in human locomotion

Bradley Davidson, University of Denver
Probabilistic musculoskeletal simulation to support evidence-based practice in post-TKA rehabilitation

Jill Higginson, University of Delaware
Preliminary assessment of an upper extremity musculoskeletal model for future application in patients with cerebral palsy and brachial plexus birth palsy


2014 Travel Award Winners

Ajit Chaudhari, Ohio State University
Establishing relationships between elements of core stability and lower extremity loading while running: a simulation study

Carrie Peterson, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
Does restored elbow extension decrease shoulder muscle forces in C5 and C6 quadriplegia during weight-relief lift?

Stacie Ringleb, Old Dominion University
Understanding the effects of fatigue on ACL loading after ACL reconstruction

Ricardo Matias, Technical University of Lisbon
Reliable classification of shoulder dysfunction based on an accurate model of shoulder kinematics combined with standard motion-capture data

Gina Bertocci, University of Louisville
Development of a canine pelvic limb gait model as a translational tool to investigate spinal cord injury recovery and interventions

Nils Hakansson, Wichita State University
How We Roll: Uncovering the biomechanics of human rolling

Thomas Sugar, Arizona State University
Modeling of human assist revices that pump energy into the gait cycle


Past winners include:

2013 Full Pilot Award Winners

Marjolein van der Krogt, VU University 
A model for spasticity and contracture in OpenSim: refinement, validation, and dissemination

Ian Stavness, University of Saskatchewan
Sensory Components for Simulating Postural Feedback Control in OpenSim


2013 Outstanding Researcher Award Winners

Ravi Balasubramanian, Oregon State University
Quantifying Hand Function Following a New Tendon-Transfer Surgical Procedure Using Adaptive Coupling Mechanisms

Bradley Davidson, University of Denver
Development of a Probabilistic Toolbox for OpenSim – Considering Intersubject Variability and Uncertainty in Musculoskeletal Modeling

Ilse Jonkers, KU Lueven
Effect of botulinum toxin treatment on musculoskeletal loading during gait in CP-children: a simulation study

Ray Browning, Colorado State University
Quantifying joint loads during level and uphill walking in obese adults via OpenSim 

Ashish Deshpande, University of Texas
Virtual Design, Control, and Testing of Hand Exoskeleton using Simulation

Alena Grabowski, University of Colorado
What is the optimal control strategy for a powered ankle-foot prosthesis?

Craig McGowan, University of Idaho
Trip recovery in the elderly population: can they do it?

Anita Vasavada, Washington State University
Determining Optimal Methods for Estimating Moment arms of Curved Muscle paths and Multi-joint Systems: Computational and Physical Models

Ricardo Matias, Technical University of Lisbon
Improving shoulder dysfunction classification with an upper extremity musculoskeletal model

Cyril Donnelly, University of Western Australia
Development of an anterior cruciate ligament model

Christopher Carty, Griffith University
Translation of OpenSim into a hospital-based paediatrics clinical gait analysis service

Ed Chadwick, Keele University
Software for visualization and control of interactive real-time forward dynamic simulations

2012 Full Pilot Award Winners

The first pilot awardee is the team of James Wakeling and Allison Arnold from Simon Fraser University and Harvard University, for their project, "Multi-Element Muscle Model for Improving Predictions of Muscle Force in Simulations".

The second pilot project awardee is Thor Besier from the University of Auckland for his project, "Software for multi-modal image segmentation, meshing, and OpenSim model generation."

The third pilot project awardee in Jeff Reinbolt from the University of Tennesse for his project, "Software for Functional Inverse Kinematics and Scaling."


2012 Travel Award Winners

We offered travel awards to attend our Advanced OpenSim Workshop in March to several promising applicants:

Greg Sawicki, North Carolina State University, "An OpenSim Modeling Framework to Assess Individual Muscle Dynamics during Walking with Powered Ankle Exoskeletons Post‐Stroke"

Rob Siston, Ohio State University, "Subject-Specific Simulations of Knee Osteoarthritis"

Anne Silverman, Colorado School of Mines, "Does use of a Powered Prosthesis Improve Gait in Persons with a Transtibial Amputation?"

Kotaro Sasaki, Boise State University, "Efficient handcycling for improved spinal cord injury rehabilitation results"

Justin Seipel, Purdue University, "Robust Stability Analysis Tools and Robustly Stable Above-Knee Amputee Locomotion in OpenSim"

Kevin Deluzio, Queen's University, "Neuromuscular Contribution to Contact Forces in Knee Osteoarthritis Subjects"

Rod Barrett, Griffith University, "Neuro-mechanics of recovery from forward loss of balance investigated using a hybrid EMG-CMC approach"



Research proposals should provide a scientific description of the project to be performed and convey the impact on rehabilitation and the biomechanical simulation community. Applications must also include a description of funding and other support requested.

Preference will be given to projects that limit indirect costs to 8%. Funding may be up to $40,000 in total costs, including any indirect costs assessed by awardees' institutions. The preferred 8% limit on indirect costs is intended to maximize the amount of funds that investigators receive to complete their pilot work. It is an amount that has been agreed upon by the PIs of the MR3 network of research centers. Note that for foreign institutions, an 8% limit is required, per NIH policy.

Download the application materials here: Pilot Project Application 2016.

1) Written proposals and supporting materials should be sent electronically, preferably as a single PDF, to opensim@stanford.edu.

2) You must also complete the online application/registration form.

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: Midnight, July 20, 2016

If you have additional questions about the program or the application process, contact us at opensim@stanford.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions


Who is eligible to apply?
We welcome applicants from biomechanics, computer science, robotics, neuroscience, physical therapy, and other fields.  We seek proposals from investigators with experience in physics-based modeling and simulation who are conducting rehabilitation research in areas including but not limited to stroke, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, prosthetics, orthotics, robotics-assisted therapy, and osteoarthritis. 

The Principal Investigator must have a faculty or research scientist appointment with a minimum of 50% time devoted to research.  The PI must have a research doctorate or relevant clinical degree (MD, DPT) with some evidence of research training and experience.  There are no other restrictions related to prior or current funding or experience level. 

Postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and other staff can be included as personnel.

Investigators from international and domestic institutions are welcome to apply.


What CVs are needed in the application?
Please include current CVs for the principal investigator (applicant) and any other personnel who will be paid by the project.  Please include other current funding sources in the CVs.


What types of project topics are we looking for?
We are seeking projects that will further the NCSRR’s mission to equip the rehabilitation research community with state-of-the-art simulation tools, enabling investigators to complement experimental studies of human performance with advanced simulation software and biomechanical models. 

In particular, we welcome proposals that are using modeling and simulation to address research questions in areas including, but not limited to, stroke, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, prosthetics, orthotics, and osteoarthritis.  We also welcome proposals that will enhance the capabilities of the OpenSim software package.

How will my proposal be evaluated?
Applications are reviewed by the NCSRR Staff and our Scientific Advisory Board. Pilot project grants will be awarded based on several factors, chief among them:

1) The potential impact of the proposed work on biomechanical simulation and/or rehabilitation research

2) The likelihood of success in achieving the proposed research goals and follow-on funding.

3) Strength of the research record of the applicant(s)


What can the funding be spent on?
The funding can be spent on supplies, equipment, personnel (faculty, post-doc, or student), or other expenses needed to achieve the aims of the proposal.  The period of funding is up to one-year.

The funding can also be used for travel expenses, for example to visit the Stanford campus for access to software engineering support.   Alternately, the seed grant could be used to fund contract support from NCSRR staff.


What should be included in the detailed budget and justification?
Provide a detailed budget (up to $40,000 over a one-year period) using the table example below.  Include a brief narrative justification describing the responsibilities of personnel and any supplies and/or other expenses requested.






Name & Role

% Effort

Salary Requested


Total Salary/Benefits

Jane Doe, Principal Investigator





John Doe, Research Assistant







Other Expenses


Total Requested



What is expected at the conclusion of project funding?
All funded projects will be required to submit a progress report at the end of the funding period, describing their accomplishments.  Awardees will also be expected to share the knowledge they have gained by establishing a Simtk.org project describing the pilot project—the goals of the project and what was achieved.  Furthermore, we will strongly encourage awardees to share any research results (software, models, simulations) with the larger community through their Simtk.org project.

Proposals will also be judged on the likelihood that the project will result in future extramural funding.  A study will be prioritized if there is a high likelihood that the results, data, models, or software tools generated will lead to a larger, more definitive project that will be competitive for extramural funding.


How many pilot project awards will be given?
We anticipate awarding up to 3 pilot grants, depending on the quality of applications received. If there are more high-quality applications than we are able to fund, we plan to offer travel awards to an OpenSim workshop.

Email Updates

to join our mailing list.

Jan 24, 2017

Webinar: Musculoskeletal simulations combining multiscale data and finite element modeling of the knee

Learn about linking joint-level deformable finite element models with multibody musculoskeletal simulations more »

Feb 06 - 08, 2017

OpenSim Workshop in Belgium

Several OpenSim Fellows, including Ilse Jonkers, Friedl De Groote, Massimo Sartori, Giordano Valente, Luca Modenese, and Dimitra Blana are organizing this OpenSim workshop in Leuven, Belgium. more »

Past Events