30+ medical inventions debut at undergrad design competition
n May 1, some-150 biomedical engineering students showcased 34 novel devices that address myriad real-world medical challenges. Entered in the Tong Biomedical Engineering Design Competition, the students’ inventions were on display in the Engineering Centers Building.
The BME students’ inventions included a phonetics-based communication device for children with significant communication disorders, a patient-transfer table for magnetic resonance imaging-guided liver-cancer treatment, and a low-cost spirometer for diagnosing pulmonary diseases in third-world countries.
|Jeremy Glynn and Andrew Dias earned the Tong BME R&D Award for their design,
“Low-cost spirometer.” (Larger image)
Building their prototypes enables the medically minded students to gain valuable experience in such areas as computer-aided design, machining and electronics.
Of equal importance, however, are the communication skills students develop as they work with their “clients”—physicians, clinicians, industry representatives and engineers—to brainstorm and refine their designs.
JoAnne Robbins is longtime client. A professor of medicine who specializes in swallowing and geriatrics and sees patients at the William S. Middleton VA Hospital and UW Hospital and Clinics, Robbins has worked with BME teams on several projects. Most recently, her student team designed an inexpensive, pocket-sized device that patients with swallowing disorders can use to “exercise” their tongue. Past projects with BME student teams have yielded a patent, a spinoff company and several published research papers.
A professor of pediatrics, Chris Green is among several repeat clients who say they enjoy interacting with the BME students. “I have a strong interest in the instrumentation used in medicine,” he says. “I get a chance to talk with students who have minds that work like mine. Therefore, we communicate well. I can give them ideas about clinical medicine and identify problems to solve. They can use their engineering and analytical skills to develop solutions.”
Green and a team of BME seniors collaborated to develop a more comfortable, multifunctional device that could unobtrusively gather data from pediatric patients visiting the Wisconsin Sleep Clinic. In addition, he worked with BME sophomores on improving equipment physicians use to collect bronchoalveolar fluid samples from patients with respiratory problems. Green spends about 20 hours each semester meeting with his student teams. A busy practicing clinician, he says that time is worthwhile. “I look at the university as a whole enterprise. We’re all in this together,” he says. “As faculty, we should do what we can to promote the teaching mission of the university. These projects give the biomedical engineering students valuable practical experience.”
Tong Biomedical Engineering Design Award Recipients
• Tong BME R&D Award (follow-on funding for continued research and development)—Development of a low-cost spirometer (Jeremy Glynn, Andrew Diaz)
• Sophomore winner—A phonetics-based augmentative communication device for children with significant communication disorders (Brian Mogen, Erin Devine, Steve Wyche, Prachi Agarwal)
• Sophomore honorable mention—A device to reliably collect broncholaveolar lavage effluent during flexible bronchoscopy (Laura Zeitler, Elise Larson, Kim Kramer, Ali Johnson)
• Junior winner—MRI-compatible olfactometer (Steve Welch, Ryan Kimmel, Kaitlin Brendel, Joe Decker)
• Junior honorable mention—Heated diagnostic radiology exam table (Tyler Vovos, Joel Gaston, Joseph Labuz, Paul Schildgen)
• Senior winner—Flow controlled endoscope irrigation pump (Holly Liske, Claire Flanagan, Laura Piechura, Kellen Sheedy)
• Senior honorable mention—Development of an anatomical model to demonstrate the correct use of female barriers (Karen Chen, Rexxi Prasasya, Chou Mai)