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Curiosity and Connections (Entrepreneurial Mindset) in BME Sophomore Design

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2017 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting


Tempe, Arizona

Publication Date

April 20, 2017

Start Date

April 20, 2017

End Date

April 22, 2017

Conference Session

Technical Session 1c

Tagged Topic

Pacific Southwest Section

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Paper Authors


Michael R. Caplan Arizona State University

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Michael Caplan earned his undergraduate degrees from The University of Texas at Austin and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following post-doctoral research at Duke University Medical Center in Cell Biology, Michael joined the faculty of Arizona State University in 2003, and he is now an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering.

Dr. Caplan’s research focuses on molecular cooperativity in drug targeting, bio-sensing, and cell signaling. Current projects align along three main themes: local drug delivery, endothelial dysfunction in diabetes, and cooperative DNA diagnostics. Recent awards include the Jeanette Wilkins Award for the best basic science paper at the Musculoskeletal Infection Society.

Dr. Caplan teaches several classes including Biotransport Phenomena, Biomedical Product Design and Development II (alpha prototyping of a blood glucose meter), and co-teaches Biomedical Capstone Design. Dr. Caplan also conducts educational research to assess the effectiveness of interactive learning strategies in large classes (~150 students).

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Courtney Michelle DuBois

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Samantha Brenna Arizona State University

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Neal Arthur Shulman Arizona State University


Jerry Coursen

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Jerry Coursen earned his undergraduate and MS degrees from Arizona State University and his PhD from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. Following post-doctoral work, he worked in the healthcare industry. While the Corporate Director for Human and Organizational Development for Samaritan Health Systems he became affiliated with Arizona State University, initially as adjunct and in 1999 as full-time faculty.

At ASU Dr. Coursen has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate biological, medical, and business, and engineering courses. He currently teaches several classes including Biomedical Product Design and Development II (alpha prototyping of a blood glucose meter), Biomedical Product Design and Development III (alpha, beta, and gamma prototyping of student designed projects), a course in biomedical ethics, and oversees an off-site undergraduate clinical experience.

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A sophomore-level design course in biomedical engineering uses as context the design of a blood glucose measurement device because it is ubiquitously recognized as a biomedical device and because design of a blood glucose measurement device requires application of at least one critical component of almost every required class in the BME curriculum. Due to the forward-looking nature of the course (showing how content from courses students have not yet taken fits into a biomedical design), the course cannot be graded for accuracy of the design like other engineering classes are typically graded. Instead, students seeking to earn an A must demonstrate curiosity about the information that can be learned from these technical models. For these reasons, this sophomore-level design course is used to teach and assess curiosity and connections – two elements of an entrepreneurial mindset.

The course is a 1-credit lab format (2.5 hours, once per week) in which the instructors begin with a mini-lecture (~15-20 minutes), followed by approximately 1 hour of students working interactively in teams, and finally by students completing a brief report on their activities. A tally sheet was created with rows describing ways in which students might demonstrate their curiosity such as asking questions, note-taking, independent research, focus, and engagement and rows describing ways in which students might demonstrate making connections such as discussing similarities of information from a previous class, processes used in industry, a future course, or other information sources. An independent observer watched teams during the 1-hour interactive teamwork portion of the class and marked -1, 0, or +1 in column (one column per student on the team) and row (the behavior observed) corresponding to the student and the behavior observed and whether the student showed a negative behavior (-1: clearly not curious or clearly not making connections even when prompted), lack of a behavior (0: no evidence either way for curiosity or connections), or positive behavior (+1: clear evidence for curiosity or making connections).

Results indicate that approximately 25% of the class exhibits positive aspects of curiosity and connections at least once per class period, and most of these students frequently exhibit these positive aspects (at least 3 positive behaviors of each in the same class period). Many of the students not exhibiting either curiosity or connections demonstrate signs of not being motivated (avoidant or rejecting behaviors). Follow-up questions (brief interviews) of these students indicated that many of them do not see the value in the course exercises relative to other pressing demands on their time such as other homework and/or social activities. Thus, we conclude that this sophomore-level design course seems to help students who see the value in these exercises hone their curiosity and make connections. We also conclude that, to reach the remainder of the class, the value of the course content needs to be communicated in a compelling way as a prerequisite to helping those students exercise their curiosity and make connections.

Caplan, M. R., & DuBois, C. M., & Brenna, S., & Shulman, N. A., & Coursen, J. (2017, April), Curiosity and Connections (Entrepreneurial Mindset) in BME Sophomore Design Paper presented at 2017 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, Tempe, Arizona.

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