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Board 29: Work in Progress: Learning from Two Little Blue Lines: Introducing Biomedical Engineering by Reverse Engineering a Low-Cost Diagnostic Device

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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

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Mary Staehle Rowan University

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Dr. Mary Staehle is an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Chair of Biomedical Engineering at Rowan University. Before joining the faculty at Rowan in 2010, Dr. Staehle worked at the Daniel Baugh Institute for Functional Genomics and Computational Biology at Thomas Jefferson University and received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware. Her research is in the area of biomedical control systems, specifically neural regeneration. Dr. Staehle is also particularly interested in biomedical and chemical engineering education.

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In-class demonstrations and outreach activities in that introduce students and/or educators to Biomedical Engineering can be challenging to develop, expensive to implement, and inflexible in complexity. We have developed a flexible module that utilizes the reverse engineering of over-the-counter, low-cost diagnostic devices to introduce various aspects of Biomedical Engineering. Participants are first introduced to the concept of Biomedical Engineering as the cone of opportunity between medicine and engineering, and they are asked to brainstorm areas of work or innovations in the field. These responses are then classified as medical devices, healthcare engineering, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, rehabilitation engineering, neural engineering, medical imaging, diagnostic devices, etc. In the next phase of the discussion, participants are asked to list known diagnostic devices, and in the subsequent discussion, the facilitator directs the discussion to include the identification of engineering challenges associated with the development and implementation of these devices. Then, student groups are given sealed packages containing early pregnancy tests and asked to use their senses and insight to determine how these diagnostic devices work. Higher-level students/participants are challenged to determine molecular mechanisms involved, whereas less-experienced students/participants are asked to hypothesize a general methodology. We then continue the discussion with other potential applications for at-home diagnostic devices, the engineering challenges associated with their development, and ethical considerations of alternative applications (e.g. cancer tests). Advanced students are also challenged to use their new-found knowledge of diagnostic devices to reverse engineer an at-home marijuana urine testing kit, which has the opposite antibody binding and reporting patterns. We have implemented this module successfully with both high school students and high school STEM teachers. Anecdotal evidence suggests high efficacy in educating and exciting participants about Biomedical Engineering. A formal assessment will follow in future work.

Staehle, M. (2018, June), Board 29: Work in Progress: Learning from Two Little Blue Lines: Introducing Biomedical Engineering by Reverse Engineering a Low-Cost Diagnostic Device Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30000

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