Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Connecting Theoretical Concepts to Physical Phenomena Using 3D-Printed Microfluidic Devices
Currently, limited hands-on activities exist that allow students to visualize the physical manifestations of theoretical concepts. 96% of our sophomore and junior biomedical engineering (BME) undergraduates agreed that demonstrations and hands-on modules help them learn, which is supported by active learning literature [1-2]. More specifically, 95% agreed that a hands-on module that depicts fluid flow through channels, mimicking the circulatory system, would benefit their learning.
Microfluidics is gaining momentum as a biomedical technology ; however, microfluidics is often taught as an upper-level stand-alone course or in a cleanroom, which may not be practical in an undergraduate BME curriculum. Educators have incorporated microfluidics hands-on activities and shown gains in students’ understanding and interest; however, many activities require advanced microfabrication techniques, which limits implementation into a BME curriculum [4-6]. 3D printing (cost-effective, rapid, easily accessible fabrication method), has been suggested to create a mold for microfluidic channels .
Our goal was to develop an educational module that uses 3D printed molds of microfluidic channels, modeling flow through the circulatory system, to allow students to connect theoretical concepts to physical phenomena. We hypothesized that implementation of this lab in a sophomore-level quantitative physiology course would produce gains in student learning and interest.
Students received a PDMS microfluidic device (created with a 3D printed mold) with varying channel diameters to model the hierarchical nature of the human vasculature. Students loaded the device with a fluorescent microbead solution, connected a syringe pump, and imaged flow using microscopy. They compared their experimental solutions to analytical solutions (hand-calculations of flow/resistance) and instructor-provided computational solutions (fluid dynamics). Pre- and post-lab quiz scores were compared (paired Mann-Whitney U test) to assess learning gains. A final exam question from Spring 2017 (with microfluidics lab) was compared (Mann-Whitney U test) to Spring 2016 (without lab) to assess learning gains. Survey responses were coded to identify emergent themes.
Quiz scores significantly increased (median 3.5/4 post vs. 3/4 pre, p = 0.0001). Final exam scores did not differ (p=0.2). 87.5% agreed that the lab helped them understand the connection between theoretical calculations and physical phenomena (resistance, flow). 91% agreed that the lab increased their ability to apply engineering principles to a physiologic system. The majority (62%) thought the lab was interesting and/or it increased their interest in microfluidics. No students said the lab made them less interested in microfluidics or the circulatory system. Emergent themes included strengths of gaining an understanding of what microfluidic devices are, hands-on, and application-based.
In conclusion, we developed a lab that uses 3D printing to create microfluidic devices that model the circulatory system. Students compared numerical, analytical, and experimental solutions to gain a physical understanding of theoretical concepts.
References: 1) Prince. J Eng Educ, 2004;93:223. 2) Freeman+ Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014;111:8410. 3) Beebe+ Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2002;4:261. 4) King+ Adv Engr Edu. 2015;4. 5) Mauk+ ASEE Annual Conference. 2014; ID10499. 6) Rust+ ASEE Annual Conference. 2013; ID6620. 7) McDonald+ Anal Chem. 2002;74:1537.
Rooney, S. I., & Sariano, P. A., & Sexton, Z. A., & Stewart, W. G., & Guidry, K. R., & Gleghorn, J. (2018, June), Connecting Theoretical Concepts to Physical Phenomena Using 3-D-printed Microfluidic Devices Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30218
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