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Biomedical Engineering Projects: Integrating Outreach Into Engineering Education

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Freshman Design and Other Novel Programs

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.312.1 - 12.312.13



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Paper Authors


Rebecca Willits Saint Louis University

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Rebecca Kuntz Willits is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Saint Louis University and has developed courses in Transport Phenomena, Biotransport, Drug Delivery, Tissue Engineering, and Design of Laboratory Experiments.

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

Biomedical Engineering Projects: Integrating Outreach into Engineering Education


As the second course in a two semester sequence in transport phenomena, Biotransport focuses on passive biological transport, including mass and fluid transfer both in the body and in artificial organs. In the presentation of biological transport, it is essential that students recognize the limitations in solving problems with fundamental equations and the importance of assumptions when investigating realistic problems. A non-traditional laboratory component was developed to address these issues and it involved a semester-long group project to create an experiment based on teachings in the first transport course. The objective of the project was to apply the basic principles learned in the first course to biological situations and to present a laboratory using these concepts to a specified audience (e.g., first semester transport students). The project allowed students to develop experimental protocols, troubleshoot problems with design and set-up, begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses in a team environment, and conceptualize transport phenomena as applied to biological situations. This laboratory component brought the challenge of choosing assumptions directly to the students and allowed them to see first hand the problems in setting up and solving for biological situations.

Over the past two years, the project description has been modified to address an outreach audience of middle or high school students. This subtle change in the project description has completely altered the outcome of the projects, with the projects containing more complicated analyses that are evaluated more accurately (e.g., delivery of “mouthwash” from Listerine Strips using finite element modeling and partial differential equation solvers) while maintaining the simplicity that middle or high school students would understand. Although the primary goal for the class learning is the theoretical evaluation of the experiment with minimal error, the teams must also develop a video demonstration for their target audience. In the video, the teams explain, in layman terms, both background and the phenomena for their demonstration. The video not only encourages further creativity in leading the demonstration, but also allows the students to improve their communication skills. Feedback through evaluation forms is primarily positive, with many of the undergraduate students enjoying the creativity that is required for the project, along with a more thorough understanding of how to evaluate real systems.

For the past two years, the department has used some of these outreach projects for Upward Bound (high school level) students who are visiting during the summer. Typically, students who had developed the projects have assisted in running the demonstration and found that their understanding of the material increases even further when they have a live audience. Overall, these projects have provided a novel mechanism for students to apply their knowledge in a creative fashion while also demonstrating the limitations of assumptions in real situations.

Willits, R. (2007, June), Biomedical Engineering Projects: Integrating Outreach Into Engineering Education Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2507

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