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Paola Jaramillo

Contact Information:
Department of Weapons & Systems Engineering
105 Maryland Ave
Annapolis MD 21401



Dr. Jaramillo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Weapons & Systems Engineering at the United States Naval Academy. At the Academy, Dr. Jaramillo's research focuses on the implementation of linear and adaptive controllers, more specifically, for guided actuation of upper limb soft robotic exoskeleton systems as well as the development of a soft robotic tooling system for corrosive environments with a biomedical focus. Through these projects, she continues to grow as a researcher and strengthen partnerships with other institutions via collaborative research. Additionally, Dr. Jaramillo actively engages in research with midshipmen through capstone and independent research projects. 

She received her Ph.D. at Virginia Tech under the supervision of her advisor, Dr. Alexander Leonessa. Dr. Jaramillo's doctoral research focused on the implementation of closed-loop strategies to establish a relationship between the muscle stimulation parameters implemented and the resulting muscle contraction. Experimental and computational work were performed to evaluate the capabilities of controllers (linear and adaptive) for tracking mouse skeletal muscle contractions due to Functional Electrical Stimulation. 


  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2016
  • M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Rutgers University, 2008
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Hartford, 2003
  • B.S., Biomedical Engineering, University of Hartford, 2003
  • A.S., Engineering Science, Norwalk Community College, 1999

ES305: Linear Control Systems (Fall)

ES305 is an introduction to classical control systems, which comprises the mathematical modeling, time and frequency response analysis, and design of PID compensators. Major topics include modeling physical systems with equations of motion, analysis of 1st and 2nd order systems, root locus, and compensator and gain design. Material is supported by a series of laboratory projects that incorporate classroom concepts to design and implement control algorithms on physical systems. At the completion of this course, students must be able to:

  • Model, identify, and verify a mathematical model of simple mechanical, electrical, and electro-mechanical systems
  • Analyze/predict the response of a linear system to a step input
  • Design and implement a linear control system to meet given specifications on the step response

ES306: Advanced Control Systems (Spring)

ES 306 is a course focused on the design and analysis of control systems using the state-space method. Material is supported by a series of laboratory projects that incorporate classroom concepts to design and implement control algorithms on physical systems. At the completion of this course, students must be able to:

  • Apply classical control design and understand the limits of its performance
  • Understand state equations and their ability to describe the internal dynamics of a system
  • Understand control system performance specifications in terms of matrix characteristic roots
  • Apply linear algebra to solve problems arising in control design
  • Apply series expansion to approximate nonlinear terms
  • Apply differential equation methods to solve for the state vector in time
  • Analyze the effect of multiple feedback loops on the characteristic polynomial (state feedback)
  • Evaluate the performance of state feedback design against implementation and operational costs
  • Understand the need for a state estimator in control system design (unknown inputs and ICs)
  • Synthesize a state estimator given a plant model and output measurement

Current Research Projects

Implementation of Linear and Nonlinear Controllers to the Rehabilitation Glove for Continuous Passive Motion Therapy

P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos in collaboration with UTARI Biomedical Group and UNTHSC (M. Wijuesundara, M. Haghshenas-Jaryani, R. Patterson)

The growth of soft robotics over the past years has brought a new approach to robotics technology and motion control by focusing on material compliance and variable stiffness to perform tasks guided by controllers. Numerous soft robotic hand exoskeleton designs are evolving as an alternative to rigid exoskeleton structures. Some of the proposed designs are composed of pressured actuated rubber-type materials, supporting flexion or extension of the fingers.  The broad scope of the proposed project is to develop an adaptive, controllable soft robotic glove for rehabilitation therapy and assistance. The soft robotic glove is being developed through the Texas Medical Research Collaborative at the University of Texas Arlington Research Institute in Fort Worth, Texas. As a research collaborator, my contribution to the project is primarily in two areas: (1) development of a computational model of the soft robotic glove, and (2) implementation of linear and adaptive controllers for optimal actuation of the soft robotic glove system. Feedback of the control system will be guided by position. Surface electromyography (sEMG) can also be considered as a system’s performance metric to ensure and identify hand muscle exertion.  The contributions of this work will span across various areas of rehabilitation and assistive technologies. The soft robotic glove can be applied to therapies, including continuous passive motion, active assistive motion, and active resistance motion. Moreover, the system can served as a mechanism to augment hand function for human performance training and operations by enabling physical superiority of the subject.

This project started in March 2018 after approval of the MOU between USNA and UTARI.  2018 Summer research, funded by Junior NARC (ONR).


Computational model of muscle co-contraction guided by adaptive control for continuous passive motion of the elbow joint 

P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is a neuroprosthesis technique that applies direct current to muscles to induce muscle contraction when the nerve pathways between the spine and peripheral nerves are disrupted. Current clinical techniques focused on open loop schemes, which is set by standardized protocols. For this reason, this research seeks to investigate the application of closed-loop controllers to guide muscle contraction. A computational model of muscles' group acting on the elbow joint is developed based on Thelen muscle model. The goal is to simulate controlled muscle contraction through feedback as well as an open-loop scheme given various sinusoid reference inputs.


Development of a modular system to aid high impact traumatic injury in extreme environments

P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos in collaboration with USCGA (R. Adrezin) 

The tooling system can be configured to support biomedical applications to aid the military in extreme conditions. The following are two proposed projects that will benefit from the development of a modular system:

  • The design of biomedical systems to aid trauma, more specifically bleeding control in extreme environments. High impact trauma may be fatal and we seek to minimize exsanguination deaths via the design of a smart tourniquet system. The goal is to develop a tourniquet system through a modular soft-robotic mechanism that can be assembled and adapted to the site of injury to prevent exsanguination. Moreover, the modular tourniquet system will incorporate sensory feedback to regulate temperature and desired pressure, as well as track elapsed time. In this way, real-time monitoring of the system to the injury may guarantee appropriate bleeding control and hence, improve chances of survival to the patient.
  • The design of a modular system to support wounded warriors returning to combat. According to the Amputee Coalition Organization some military amputees are willingly returning to the battlefield to continue their military commitment. In the Army, at least 167 soldiers have remained in active duty with some returning to battle while others select support roles. As a result, we seek to develop a modular, interchangeable soft robotic end effector for the upper limb prosthetic system, which could aid the wounded warrior tackle the daily job demands. The goal is to design and develop a modular system that will enable them to perform at the same physical level as their colleagues.

This project is in the initial stages to bring collaboration between USNA and USCGA academies.




  1. Jaramillo Cienfuegos, P., Shoemaker, A., Grange, R.W., Abaid, N., and A. Leonessa, Classical and adaptive control of ex vivo skeletal muscle contractions using Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) PloS ONE. 12(3), e0172761
  2. Jaramillo, P., Burks, G., Leonessa, A. and N. Abaid, Experimental Stimulation of EDL mouse muscle with a small scale two-coil system In Proceedings of ASME 2016 Dynamic Systems and Control Conferences. October 12-14, 2016. Minneapolis, MN.
  3.  Jaramillo, P., Burks, G., Abaid, N., and A. Leonessa. Development of an Electromagnetic Stimulation System using Classical and Adaptive Control Techniques to Induce Contraction of Shape Memory Alloys for Biomedical Applications. ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control. 2018. In progress.
  4.  Barroso, F., Bueno, D., Gallego, A., Jaramillo, P., and A. Kilicarslan (2013). Chapter 14: Surface EMG in Neurorehabilitation and Ergonomics: State of the Art and Future Perspectives. In 2012 Summer School on Neurorehabilitation Emerging Therapies. Nuevalos, Zaragoza: Springer. ISBN: 978-3-642-385551.
  5. Jaramillo, P., Shoemaker, A., Burks, W., Tran, M., and A. Leonessa. Development of Electromagnetic Stimulation as Treatment for Muscle Activation. Proceedings of the 6th Annual Dynamics Systems and Control Conference. Palo Alto, CA. October 21-23, 2013.
  6.  Burks, W.G., Tran, M., Jaramillo, P., A. Leonessa. Development of Controlled Electromagnetic Stimulation System for Patients with Vocal Fold Paralysis. Presented at the 2013 Biomedical Engineering Society Meeting. Seattle, WA.  September 25-28, 2013
  7. Jaramillo, P., Shoemaker, A., and A. Leonessa (2012). Skeletal Muscle Contraction Control and Tracking Using an Adaptive Augmented PI Control Approach. In M. Pajaro, D. Torricelli & J.L. Pons (Eds.), International Conference on NeuroRehabilitation Converging Clinical and Engineering Research: Biosystems and Biorobotics. Toledo, Spain: Springer
  8. Jaramillo, P., Shoemaker, A., Leonessa, A., and R. Grange. Skeletal Muscle Contraction in Feedback Control, Proceedings of the 5th Annual Dynamics Systems and Control Conference. Ft. Lauderdale, FL. October 17-19, 2012.  (Best Paper in Session Award)

Midshipman Research Projects

Trident Research Project:

Development of an At-Home Assistive Rehabilitation Hand Exoskeleton (AY2019)

Summary Statement: The proposed project aims to develop a soft, portable exoskeleton for the hand governed by control and capable of achieving motion and positions useful to rehabilitation.

Abstract:  Motion in rehabilitation has emerged as the standard of care, creating a role for robotic assistance in achieving that motion. Tendon glide, an exercise that moves the tendons through their sheathes, is frequently prescribed and effective, yet technically simple. The rehabilitation community would benefit from the development of a portable and reasonably-priced exoskeleton capable of articulating the hand through the positions of the tendon glide exercise. The creation of an at-home device would allow for sophisticated care of the patient to continue without the oversight of an occupational therapist. The proposed project builds upon previous efforts to create a soft exoskeleton for the hand by attempting to achieve sophisticated control of McKibben muscles, a type of soft actuator.

Hydraulically driven McKibben muscles preserve the benefits associated with soft actuators while still generating significant force and remaining compact, making them useful for lightweight exoskeletons. The proposed exoskeleton would be extremely portable and enable the continuation of assisted rehabilitation exercises in the home. The proposed project breaks the task of designing an exoskeleton into several parts. Firstly, the ideal McKibben muscle for the exoskeleton application will be designed and built using an iterative design process. A mathematical model will be developed for the ideal McKibben muscle based on input and output data.  The artificial muscle will then be controlled via linear and non-linear control algorithms in simulation and experiment. Feedback, which is rarely used in clinical settings for rehabilitation, will guide the actuation of the McKibben muscles. A commercially available plunger and syringe will be implemented to create a compact hydraulic system, and a mathematical model will be developed for the system. The McKibben muscles and hydraulic system encompass the two main components of the exoskeleton system.  Through the integration of sensors, the motions of the exoskeleton will be guided by closed-loop control to achieve the positions of tendon glide.

The proposed project has several novel features beyond improving the rehabilitation process. Linear and adaptive control of McKibben muscles have not previously been realized in a physical system. The implementation of linear and nonlinear controls in McKibben muscles has the potential to increase their application in robotic systems. Additionally, the actuation and control of a plunger-syringe system using SMA wires represents an uncommonly lightweight and simple hydraulic system. The development of such a system could improve the typically cumbersome reliance on pressure seen in hydraulically actuated muscles of all types. The combination of these two systems in an exoskeleton for the hand, resulting in McKibben muscles governed by positional feedback and driven by a compact hydraulic system, represents a uniquely compact and functional device for use in rehabilitation. The proposed exoskeleton system has the potential to supplement hand rehabilitation and improve the recovery of patients suffering from a variety of muscular afflictions that affect the hand.

Block diagram of McKibben muscle system
This project aims to develop an affordable, portable exoskeleton actuated by McKibben muscles and commanded by feedback in order to perform passive mobilization of the hand to achieve the positions of tendon glide.

Capstone Research Projects:

Simulation of Muscle Co-contraction Guided by Feedback (HONORS)

Faculty: P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos

Functional Electrical Stimulation has been used as a treatment in rehabilitation for paralysis for muscle reinnervation. Current clinical techniques focused on an open loop scheme, which is set by standardized protocols. For this reason, this research seeks to investigate the application of closed-loop controllers to guide muscle co-contraction.  A computational model is developed for the muscle-mass-damper-muscle system based on Thelen muscle model. A linear PI controller is developed based on the Ziegler-Nichols method to control the position of the mass. The mass of the system follows a sinusoid reference signal. To start, we developed a model system based on parameters of the EDL mouse muscle. Once the system was tested, we implement parameters of the human bicep and human bicep-tricep muscles to mimic the motion around the elbow joint. We were able to tune the PI controller gains to guide the position of the mass between a bicep/tricep pair for healthy adults and bicep/tricep pair for old adults.

Bicep/Tricep co-contraction for healthy adult
Closed-loop simulation of bicep/tricep muscle co-contraction for healthy patient

Bicep/Tricep muscle co-contraction (elder)Closed-loop simulation of bicep/tricep muscle co-contraction for elder patient



Assessment of Open-Loop Characteristics of Various Fiber-Reinforced Actuators (HONORS)

 Faculty: P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos

Soft robotics are a new and upcoming field that focuses on flexible materials as compared to the rigid materials that characterize the field of conventional robotics. There is a high demand for this type of device in the medical world for physical therapy rehabilitation. This project focuses on the design of various soft robotic fiber-reinforced actuators with different characteristics as proof-of-concept exoskeleton devices. Recent research on soft robotics and fiber-reinforced actuators were examined in order to gain an understanding of this complex field. The bending motion of the fiber-reinforced actuators were measured based on its trajectories and displacement against a polar coordinate background. Two different relationships were analyzed: (1) the relationship between the displacement of the actuator in degrees and the amount of pressure applied, and (2) the relationship between the amount of pressure and voltage applied. 

fiber-reinforced actuators
Development of various fiber-reinforced actuators

Ulnar Collateral Ligament Rehabilitation Robotics (INTERDISCIPLINARY: EME & ESE)

Faculty: P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos and T. Severson

Full Name of the Sponsor: Lockheed Martin

The UCL Robotic Rehabilitation Capstone was an interdisciplinary project focusing on the mechanical design of an arm brace and feedback system to improve rehabilitation therapies. The novelty of the device relied on the implementation of linear controllers to optimally guide the brace motion. Application of feedback systems are rarely used in clinical settings. Through these developments, the low-cost portable system aimed to be used at home without the supervision of a therapist for continuous passive motion. The system was designed to be useful, responsive, accurate, smooth, durable and comfortable. The system’s usefulness has yet to determined, as it was not tested on injured subjects. However, it was very responsive, with an average rise times less than 0.2 seconds, attributed to the low duty cycle necessary to achieve high torque and low angular velocity. The average overshoot for the flexion motion was 16.6%, while the overshoot of the extension motion was 3.6%. These numbers resulted in a system accurate enough for the user to not recognize the minor deviations from desired angular velocity. The inability to reach a steady state velocity in the flexion testing was a result of physical impact of brace elements, rather than system design. However, the extension system reached a steady state of 30 degrees per second, relatively close to the desired 33 degrees per second. Additionally, the system was smooth, and the deviations from the desired angular velocity were not felt by the tester, and there were no significant jolts. The system was durable, helping its mobility and usability. The comfortability of the system suffered due to the weight of the motor assembly, and the brace became uncomfortable after extended use.

Block diagram of elbow system
Block diagram of the elbow rehab system

Identifying the Correlation between Mental and Physical Fatigue during High Intensity Exercise (HONORS)

Faculty Adviser(s): P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos and M. Feemster

The brain controls the body through an extensive network of nerves, sending electrical pulses through the nervous system in order to activate the appropriate muscles needed to accomplish a specific task. Electric pulses flow both ways along these paths allowing the brain and the body to communicate. We are seeking to quantify a relationship between the effects of physical fatigue and brain activity. Physical fatigue is commonly defined as a subject’s cardiovascular strain as well as their core body temperature since both metrics consistently increase to a peak value during exercise. In other words, investigate how the brain responds during high intensity biking exercise for a prolonged amount of time. To understand this relationship we propose a human study with three groups: non-athletes, endurance athletes, and strength athletes. Our hypothesis is that the endurance athletes will be able to sustain a high intensity exercise routine for a longer period compared to endurance athletes. Non-athletes will serve as our control. To record this information, a portable EEG system will record the brain's activity while sensors will be placed to capture oxygen consumption, maximum heart rate, and body temperature.

Independent Research Project:

Development of a 3D Printed Syringe Pump (3/C PROJECT)

Faculty: P. Jaramillo Cienfuegos

The main purpose of this project was to build a 3D printed syringe pump for controlled, continuous fluid administration and withdrawal. Applications of syringe pumps include drug delivery, microfluidics (microreactors), to mention a few. This device is a component of the At-Home Assistive Rehabilitation Hand Exoskeleton project to control the position of the McKibben muscles for continuous passive hand therapy. The advantage of constructing this device when compared to the off-the shelf syringe pumps, is primarily the low-cost as well as the ability to design the algorithms for controlled supply of the fluid to the muscle. Currently, the device has been completely assembled and is being actuated via a microcontroller.

Systems Outreach Committee

Member of the SOC team to promote Weapons & Systems Engineering during the Academic year by participating in open houses and evening major briefs

Member of the Library Committee

As part of this committee, we are currently focusing on developing surveys to facilitate information literacy for faculty and midshipmen and discuss upcoming budget changes. 

Plebe Advising

As a plebe adviser, I have the opportunity is to guide the students academically through their first year and any challenges that the first year presents. Through this process, I am vested in knowing more about the students and their interests and aptitudes so that we can identify the right major for them to be successful. 

Diversity and Inclusion Committee

A new committee that was developed with the intention of developing and supporting strategies to enhance diversity, inclusion and equality among faculty and midshipmen.
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