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A Team Based Nerve Cuff Simulation Project In A Third Year Foundations Of Biomedical Engineering Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

BME Laboratory and Project Experiences

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.105.1 - 15.105.26

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Paper Authors


Purvis Bedenbaugh East Carolina University

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Purvis Bedenbaugh is the director of the biomedical engineering concentration within the newly ABET-accredited general engineering program at East Carolina University. He obtained the B. S. E. degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University, the M. S. degree in bioengineering from Clemson University, the Ph. D. degree in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience and Department of Otolaryngology of the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to joining the Department of Engineering faculty at East Carolina University, he served on the faculty of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Florida College of Medicine. In addition to his academic appointment, Dr. Bedenbaugh serves as Chief Technology Officer for Cranial Medical Systems, Inc.

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

A Team-Based Nerve Cuff Simulation Project in a Third Year Foundations of Biomedical Engineering Course


A nerve cuff simulation group project was used to introduce first semester juniors to bioelectric phenomena. The students are enrolled in the biomedical engineering concentration within the newly accredited general engineering program at East Carolina University. Bioelectric phenomena were introduced through a group project so that, in addition to learning new subject matter, they would (A) integrate knowledge developed in prerequisite and co-requisite coursework in a new setting, (B) develop their independent research skills, (C) gain experience working in teams, and (D) develop facility to apply their new knowledge, not just recite it. These traits are considered to be important aspects of the program goal to producing work-ready engineers.

Teams of 3-4 students were given a model of an axon, surrounding tissue and a stimulating nerve cuff, written in LT-Spice. Students also received a background reading assignment including a chapter from a textbook, a short research article, and a patent application relevant to the project. Three assignments with progressively decreasing levels of difficulty were given to the students in succession. The original assignment asked them to design and simulate a nerve cuff which would generate a unidirectionally propagating action potential. The second assignment asked them to design stimulation parameters so that a modified model with two identical nerve cuffs could generate a unidrectionally propagating action potential. The third assignment supplied a modified model with two nerve cuffs which generated a unidirectionally propagating action potential. Students were asked to increase the temperature so that it no longer generated a unidirectionally propagating action potential, and then adjust stimulating currents so that the model again generated a unidirectional action potential.

Assessment activities for this course were chosen to both foster to continuous improvement of the course and to support the relevant ABET outcomes of the general engineering program. Assessment methods included an inventory of factual questions, a set of questions related to self- perception of factual learning, and a report of time spent on activities related to the project. Performance was fair on factual questions related to definitions, action potential initiation and parameter scaling, but less well on questions related to applications of defined terms, typical values of physiological parameters and action potential termination. Self perceptions were somewhat better than the factual scored indicated. More time was spent organizing their team effort than on any other single activity. Based on this experience, the course is being re- structured to better support problem-based pedagogy.

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