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Integrating Hands On Design Experiences Into The Curriculum

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design in BME Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.765.1 - 15.765.13



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Paper Authors


Richard Goldberg University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Richard Goldberg is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He is also the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Curriculum in Applied Sciences and Engineering, which houses the undergraduate BME program. He teaches several instrumentation courses and senior design. His primary interest is in rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology for people with disabilities.

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Robert Dennis University of North Carolina

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Bob Dennis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Chair of Applied Sciences and Engineering at UNC Chapel Hill. He teaches Biomedical Design and Manufacturing at the undergraduate engineering level at UNC. His research interests include biomedical instrumentation for clinical and research applications, and musculoskeletal and cardiovascular tissue engineering.

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Charles Finley University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Charles Finley is a Research Associate Professor in the departments of Biomedical Engineering, Otolaryngology and Speech and Hearing Sciences. He teaches linear control theory, engineering mathematics survey, biomedical instrumentation, and signal processing. His primary research interest is in the design and application of cochlear implant systems.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Integrating Hands-On Design Experiences into the Curriculum Abstract

In many Biomedical Engineering (BME) programs, design is a key component throughout the curriculum. This may involve a combination of design problems on paper, a reverse engineering project, education in design methods, and hands-on fabrication experiences. In the BME program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, our goal is to also provide more hands-on design opportunities in the laboratory and machine shop. We accomplished this by creating new courses for a “design sequence” and by collaborating with an existing, required course.

The design sequence consists of four courses that span the final three years of the curriculum. In the first two classes, typically taken in the second and third years, the goals are to learn the basic design tools and manufacturing techniques for building biomedical devices, such as a rotating cell culture bioreactor. In the process, students learn how to use a variety of tools and equipment in the student machine shop, including computer aided design software, a 3-D fusion deposition modeler, laser cutter, mill, lathe, and a variety of hand and power tools.

The third design course is taken in the fall of senior year, and it is taught in conjunction with a required class in control systems. This gives students a chance to apply the theoretical material that they are simultaneously learning in control systems. For example, this year each student group developed a robot arm system controlled by a biopotential signal, such as an EMG or EOG, that they acquire from their own body and process. For the fourth design course, each group works on a different project, chosen from a wide variety of project ideas that change from year to year.

This design program has many benefits. By the time students start their final design project in the spring of senior year, they already have a number of hands-on experiences in design. This elevates the level of what they can accomplish for this project. In addition, since our students start getting experience with equipment in the machine shop in their sophomore year, they are an attractive asset for many research laboratories. Feedback from students indicates that these hands-on experiences were fun and beneficial for them.


In engineering design courses, students have an opportunity to consider an open-ended problem and develop an original design to address the need. In fact, design and development “is what most distinguishes engineering from science, which concerns itself principally with understanding the world as it is”. 1 As a result, many programs have emphasized design in a number of ways, for example by incorporating design courses for first year students and throughout their curriculum.2-3 In recent years, many papers at the ASEE conference have been devoted to presentations on this topic, including an entire session in 2009.4-9

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we have a small but growing program in Biomedical Engineering (graduating 32 students in May 2010). When the faculty first developed

Goldberg, R., & Dennis, R., & Finley, C. (2010, June), Integrating Hands On Design Experiences Into The Curriculum Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16220

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015