College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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BME MONITOR: The Biomedical Engineering Department Newsletter


2007 Newsletter
Featured articles

Experiential learning: BME undergrad design competition stresses real-world challenges

Research may yield improved treatment of diseased lungs

Translational research: Medicine, hand-delivered

Translational research:
Ultrasound waves reflect tissue mechanics

Translational research: 'Balloon' effect:
Blocking aneurysms

Translational research: For ACL repair,
closing the 'gap'

Translational research: Fast, efficient MR imaging

Translational research: Seven new projects launched

Graduate student service award honors Corrine Bahr

Regular Features

Message from the chair

Faculty news:
David Beebe cited as pioneer of miniaturization

In memoriam:
Prof. Paul Bach-y-Rita

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BME Design Awards logo

Experiential learning:
BME undergrad design competition stresses real-world challenges

Decorative initial cap Part of a unique curriculum infused with real-world design opportunities, a new competition for BME under-graduate students places an even greater emphasis on applying their engineering knowledge to actual problems in biology and medicine.

The Tong Biomedical Engineering Student Design Awards reward BME undergraduate teams that design innovative solutions and develop outstanding prototypes. Their work addresses real challenges that University of Wisconsin medical and life sciences faculty and biomedical companies face and offer for the students to solve.

Alum Peter Tong, the contest sponsor, shown with two of the BME students who entered the competition

Alum Peter Tong (center) sponsored the competition to encourage BME undergrads to learn through developing clinically relevant, real-world design solutions.
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Student participants in the Tong Biomedical Engineering Design competition

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Alum Peter Tong, the contest sponsor, shown with two of the BME students who entered the competition

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Student participants in the Tong Biomedical Engineering Design competition

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The inaugural competition took place May 4, when nearly 150 biomedical engineering students displayed posters and prototypes of medical devices and innovations that they designed and refined for a semester or more.These inventions—among them, a bioreactor for tissue engineering, a system for reliably calibrating a cardiovascular catheter to measure internal blood pressures, and coatings that may reduce infections from urinary catheter use—showcase student initiative, ingenuity and creativity.

Thank You, Judges!

Judges for the 2007 Tong Biomedical Engineering Design Competition:

Michael GaraDirector of Research Awards, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation

Leon JanssenRetired Executive, GE Healthcare

Barbara IsraelFounder, Member of the Board and CEO Emeritus, Platypus Technologies

Jean BrittainChief Scientist and Manager, Applied Science Lab, MR Body and Vascular Team, GE Healthcare

Jennifer BassettTechnical Account Manager, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Life Science Research Division

Matthew OglePresident and CEO, Lumen Biomedical

“The BME program itself has a heavy emphasis on getting students to really understand the problems they’re trying to solve—versus just coming up with a solution that may not work at all for the clinical environment,” says electrical and computer engineering alumnus Peter Tong, who via the Tong Family Foundation sponsors the competition.

A panel of six external judges evaluated the student designs and prototypes based on their technical merit, functionality, appearance and construction, and adherence to client requirements. One student team from each class—sophomore, junior and senior—received a Tong Biomedical Engineering Design Award (see box below).

In addition, a follow-up award provides funding and employment for up to two groups to further research, develop and protect their designs in collaboration with a biomedical engineering faculty member. “A prototype is probably one of the most essential tools for engineers to validate whether what they have in mind is practical,” says Tong. “Particularly for entrepreneurs, who are going to raise capital to do what will fulfill their dreams, if they have a feasible model, or a ‘good prototype,’ they probably will have a higher chance of raising the capital they need.”

The Tong competition contributes deeply to the department culture of integrated education, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. The department is home to the only biomedical engineering undergraduate program in the country that requires real-world design projects every semester for every biomedical engineering student, says Professor and Chair Robert Radwin.

“Creating new medical instruments, making the world accessible to people with disabilities, or developing new therapeutic devices requires that we educate engineers in multiple disciplines, foster innovation, and instill a strong command of design,” he says. “The Department of Biomedical Engineering has taken up that challenge by educating a new type of biomedical engineer who is equally adept in engineering and the biosciences, and who is skilled in applying their knowledge through the process of design.”

In the design courses, “clients” include university medical and life sciences faculty, biomedical engineering companies and, occasionally, individuals with specific rehabilitation needs. At the start of each semester, students choose projects, form teams, schedule meetings and plan brainstorming sessions. Then they spend long hours experimenting and designing their devices. The intensive process requires that teams meet regularly and file progress reports with their mentor or client company.

The process mirrors the kind of environment the students will encounter in their professional careers, says Tong. “It’s not a one-shot deal—it’s a continuous process and the department promotes very good teamwork among the students,” he says. “Faculty teach the students how to work together and that is also very unique. This is not a solo, one-man job. In industry, very seldom can you do things by yourself anymore. You really have to work with a team.

Several past projects have been very successful and have led to some unique, patentable designs, says Radwin. “Every year, a number of biomedical engineering student design projects are accepted by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation for patenting and licensing,” he says. “At least one recent project has already spun off into a startup company. I anticipate that this process will be greatly accelerated through the Tong follow-up awards.”

The students’ efforts culminated in a final presentation at the May 4 Biomedical Engineering Student Design Expo, a public event that offers each team the opportunity to demonstrate and explain its project and to participate in the Tong competition.



• Sophomores Chou Mai, Jason Tham, Robyn Hrobsky and Aaron Freis designed the fine-needle aspiration improvement. For client Dr. Frederick Kelcz, a radiologist at UW Hospital, the students delivered a mechanical-electrical device that improves on the current manual method for obtaining tissue samples for diagnosis.

• Juniors Jimmy Fong, Jack Page, Ryan Thome, Becky Jones and Matt Valaskey invented an auditory substitution device that uses vibro-tactile stimulation to substitute for regional frequency hearing loss for client and audiologist Veronica Heide.

• For client Darryl Thelen, associate professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering who studies such sports-related injuries as hamstring tears, seniors Eric Bader, Arinne Lyman, Christopher Westphal and Sarajane Stevens developed a device that can image and measure muscle motion and joint kinematics during movement under load.


Two teams also received additional funding to conduct further research and development of their designs:

• Under Associate Professor John Kao and and Assistant Professor Naomi Chesler, seniors Ashley Huth and Claire Flanigan will continue work on their project, “Interpenetrating networks for delivery systems.”

• Under Associate Professor Darryl Thelen and Assistant Professor William Murphy, Chris Westphal and Eric Bader (who graduated in May) will continue work on their project, “A device for inducing active lengthening muscle contractions for dynamic MR imaging.”




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Copyright 2007 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

Date last modified: Monday,30-July-2007 15:43:00 CDT
Date created: 30-July-2007



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