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Modeling and Design: a Hands-on Introduction to Biomedical Engineering

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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

Design in the BME curriculum

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Eileen Haase PhD Johns Hopkins University

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Eileen Haase is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She is also chair of the Johns Hopkins Applied Biomedical Engineering graduate program for Engineering Professionals. She received her BS in ESM from Virginia Tech, and her MS EE and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins.

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How can we impart the excitement of biomedical engineering to our freshmen from the moment they step on campus? We have found great success with “Modeling and Design” an innovative, required freshman course which engages our students as biomedical engineers from their first day on campus. Small groups, guided by upperclassmen lab managers, teaching assistants, and faculty, work through five modules including modeling human efficiency, the arm, and the cardiovascular system, as well as a foam core design project. By the conclusion of the fifth module, an independent modeling project, 96% of the students appreciate the value of working in teams to tackle complex challenges. They have become adept at using cooperative learning to develop and test their hypotheses, and to present their results through written lab reports and oral presentations. By the end of the semester, 84% of freshmen “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that the course had met its goal of providing a solid introduction to modeling physiological systems, academic and career mentoring, exposure to research and design opportunities available at XX University, and a concrete basis for a career choice in BME. More importantly, the course helps set up our students for long-term academic success, as indicated by a 94% freshmen/sophomore retention rate.

Developing a mathematical model to describe a physiological system is a new concept for freshmen. For each project, the freshmen are provided with a one page background summary with just enough information to get started. Experimental testing of the mathematical model is an essential component of the learning process, and allows the students to collect data and perform a statistical analysis of their model. At first, the process of making assumptions, writing equations, developing an experimental protocol to test the model, and analyzing the results is daunting. By the final independent project, 88% of students felt exploring their own topic was an “excellent” or “good” learning experience and enjoyed presenting their results at a final poster session. Not only do the freshmen benefit from the course, but the upperclassmen lab managers believe they have gained valuable leadership and professional skills, such as providing constructive feedback and public speaking.

Haase, E. (2018, June), Modeling and Design: a Hands-on Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30816

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