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Board 12: Work in Progress: An Economical and Open-source Mechanical Testing Device for Biomaterials in an Undergraduate Biomechanics Laboratory Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors

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Julien Henri Arrizabalaga University of Oklahoma

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Matthias U. Nollert University of Oklahoma


Rachel C. Childers University of Oklahoma

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Dr. Childers is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. She developed and teaches all of the Junior-level biomedical engineering lab courses (6 different core areas) within the department.

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Commercially available mechanical testing devices for mechanical characterization of biomaterials can cost tens of thousands of dollars. In order to accommodate laboratory courses with several students, access to multiple devices can enhance the student experience by allowing the students to have the most hands-on time with the equipment. This can be prohibitively expensive, however. To address this problem, custom made devices using open-source hardware and software systems such as Arduino can be built with materials costing a fraction of the commercially available devices. We describe the creation of mechanical test frames capable of uniaxial tension and compression tests for biomaterials costing < $300 each. The mechanical test frame consists of an Arduino microcontroller, wooden frame, a stepper motor, and several 3D printed parts. We have validated this device by direct comparison with a commercially available mechanical testing system (Instron 5443). In addition, we will report the outcomes of the implementation of this device in a Junior-level biomechanics course. The results of a survey administered to n=21 students will be used to assess the effectiveness of using the Arduino device relative to the commercial Instron device to accomplish mechanical testing and achieve student learning outcomes. The survey asks questions regarding the ease of use of the custom device, a self-report on the learning outcomes of the lab related to testing of viscoelastic biomaterials, and general interest and awareness of the open-source maker movement. In addition to the self-report, we will assess the student lab reports to get a quantitative measure of whether the students achieved the learning outcomes of the lab. In addition to the mechanical testing experiments for the laboratory course, we plan to let the students use these devices to complete projects and self-designed experiments related to biomechanics at the end of the semester. In addition, we hope to explore the use of these devices to help inspire the maker movement. Possibilities include, allowing students to improve the design for additional capabilities in a bioinstrumentation course or design project.

Arrizabalaga, J. H., & Nollert, M. U., & Childers, R. C. (2018, June), Board 12: Work in Progress: An Economical and Open-source Mechanical Testing Device for Biomaterials in an Undergraduate Biomechanics Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah.

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