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Bridging Courses: Unmet Clinical Needs to Capstone Design (Work in Progress)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Jeannie S Stephens University of Delaware

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Jeannie Stephens received her doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Delaware in 2004. Since then, she has been a National Research Council fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a post doctoral fellow at Rice University, and a research scientist at DePuy Synthes (companies of Johnson & Johnson). Stephens first joined BME in September 2013 as temporary faculty and is now an assistant professor of instruction and associate director of BME’s undergraduate program. In this role, she will strengthen the department’s connection with the local medical community, both in clinical and industrial settings, in order to foster undergraduate design projects as well as internship and employment opportunities for our students.

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Sarah Ilkhanipour Rooney University of Delaware Orcid 16x16

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Sarah I. Rooney is an Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at the University of Delaware, where she seeks to bring evidence-based teaching practices to the undergraduate curriculum. She received her B.S.E. (2009) and M.S.E. (2010) in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and her Ph.D. (2015) in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Elisa S. Arch University of Delaware

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Dr. Elisa Arch received her BS in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware. She is currently a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware.

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Jill Higginson University of Delaware

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Dr. Higginson is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. She was trained at Cornell University (BS Mechanical Engineering ‘96), Penn State University (MS Bioengineering ‘98), and Stanford University (PhD Mechanical Engineering ‘05). Dr. Higginson has also served as the Director of the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research, was the founding Director of Biomedical Engineering at UD in 2010 and coordinated the undergraduate academic program through 2013.

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This work in progress focuses on bringing unmet clinical needs identified in one course into a capstone design course. The goal is to develop working prototypes and applicable research solutions to solve the unmet clinical needs and offer an active biomedical engineering learning opportunity.

Clinical Immersion for Engineers is taught over Winter Session (5 week session, Jan-Feb). The students are paired with clinicians in a range of local sites, including hospitals (typically in one specialty area), physical therapy clinics and prosthetic/orthotic practitioners. The students shadow the clinicians, and identify unmet clinical needs. At the end of the term the students present a proposed solution to one of the unmet needs, but the process stops there. One down is that there is no mechanism to easily transition the unmet clinical needs into a design project to address the unmet need.

During Senior Design, biomedical engineering (BME) students have the opportunity to work in BME only teams or in interdisciplinary engineering teams (biomedical, civil & environment, computer & electrical, and mechanical engineering). The composition of the teams depends of the project need. The capstone design course is a 6-credit, one-semester engineering design focused course. Traditionally, industrial partners and university researchers sponsored the design projects.

The 2014 offering of Senior Design had two projects that came out of the Clinical Immersion course. However there is a prohibiting factor that has kept more clinicians from sponsoring project. The sponsors are required to pay a sponsorship fee to cover administration and maintenance cost of design space. The sponsor is also required to pay prototyping fees. The majority of the clinical collaborators do not have the financial resources to cover these fees. To alleviate this issue the authors applied for and received an NIH R25 Educational Grant. Facilitated by the R25, the 2015 offering of Senior Design has three design projects that are products of the unmet needs identified during the prior offering of Clinical Immersion (anesthesiology, otolaryngology, and sports medicine).

During Senior Design the students and clinicians have weekly meeting (phone call or in person) to identify the wants and constraints of the projects, discuss prior art, preliminary design or research concepts, and design iterations. The students shadow the clinician in their respective clinical setting, to gain a better understanding of the complexity of the environment and interview end users. At the end of the course the students present the sponsors with a report that is a full synopsis of their design, a working prototype or research plan, and paths forward. To assess the success of the bridging the unmet clinical needs from Clinical Immersion to Senior Design, the students will be given pre and post surveys and the sponsors will be interviewed. The primary goal of is to evaluate the success of clinical and nonclinical projects in senior design in terms of student preparation, the student’s technical skills, and communication with the clinical community. Technical confidence and strong communication skills with clinical partners are keys to success in the biomedical field.

Stephens, J. S., & Rooney, S. I., & Arch, E. S., & Higginson, J. (2016, June), Bridging Courses: Unmet Clinical Needs to Capstone Design (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26393

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