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A New Biomedical Engineering Course Based On Aerospace Applications

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

BME Technical Modules and Laboratories

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.64.1 - 10.64.9



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Paper Authors

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William Waugaman

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Brian Self

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A New Biomedical Engineering Course Based on Aerospace Applications

Brian P. Self and William A. Waugaman

United States Air Force Academy, Colorado


Engineering students at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) have an extremely full course load. Because of this, creating a new course that can fulfill an elective option and be relevant to their future Air Force careers is quite challenging. In order to accomplish this, a mechanics professor and electrical engineering professor teamed to create a new Introduction to Biomedical Engineering course, open to all senior level engineering students. The first block of the course focused primarily on physiology, the second on electrical engineering topics, and the third on mechanics issues. At the end of the course, teams of students completed a final project which focused on some type of control system within an aerospace cockpit. The teams had to create working hardware that collected some type of physiologic signal that would indicate pilot stressors, then determine some action based on these signals. Examples of projects include collecting electro-oculography to determine if a pilot is spatially disoriented, using electromyography and heart rate to predict G- induced loss of consciousness, and using thermal sensors to help control pilot stress and over heating. The course content attempted to provide the students with necessary tools to complete the project throughout the semester. After each lesson, each student completed the following survey answering the following questions : (1) The topic was interesting, (2) Today’s lesson motivated me to learn more about the material, (3) The topic is useful to add to my “engineering toolbox”, (4) The topic will be useful to me in my Air Force career, (5)The topic should be covered in next year’s Intro to Biomed class. Results from the survey and open ended comments will be presented.


Biomedical engineering is relevant in a large variety of applications, most of which are well established. The relevance to the US Air Force may not be obvious, but are numerous. Air Force pilots experience extreme environments during flight, including thermal stress, high altitude flying, sustained acceleration, spatial disorientation, and pilot ejections. High mechanical forces can occur during accidents and ejections, while the cardiovascular system is stressed while pulling G’s. These types of biomedical applications were used to help frame a new course at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA).

Before discussing the development of any course, it is necessary to describe the unique challenges faced at the Academy. USAFA has a significantly different population of Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Waugaman, W., & Self, B. (2005, June), A New Biomedical Engineering Course Based On Aerospace Applications Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14628

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