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Redesigning a Biomedical Engineering Capstone Design Sequence to Enhance Student Engagement

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Design in Biomedical Engineering (Works in Progress) - June 24th

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Olga Imas Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Olga Imas, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where she teaches a variety of courses in biomedical digital signal processing, medical imaging, computing in biomedical engineering, biomaterials, anatomy and physiology. In addition to her academic responsibilities, she acts as a consultant to GE Healthcare for product development with emphasis on advanced imaging applications for neurology, cardiology, and oncology. Olga’s technical areas of expertise include signal and imaging processing, and statistical analysis. In her previous and current product development roles, Olga gained extensive experience in clinical product management involving market analysis for new and existing imaging products, and clinical product marketing. She has experience in managing product evaluations at multiple clinical sites, and has a comprehensive knowledge of neurology, oncology, and cardiology imaging markets. She has established a number of strong collaborations with clinical experts in recognized neuroimaging and oncology centers.

Olga has earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1999, and a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering and functional imaging from the Joint Functional Imaging program at Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin in 2004. Prior to entering academia full-time in 2009, Olga completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in anesthesiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she studied the effects of general anesthetic agents on brain function. She then worked at GE Healthcare as a product development specialist in CT and Molecular Imaging with emphasis on post-processing software applications for neurology, oncology, and cardiology. Olga has over twenty peer-reviewed publications, and three pending patents. Her professional interests include physiological mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease, anesthetic ablation of consciousness, and applicability of medical imaging in stroke and brain trauma.

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Jeffrey A. LaMack Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. LaMack is the undergraduate program director of the Biomedical Engineering program and a faculty member in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the MIlwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). His areas of specialty include biophysical transport phenomena, biocomputing, physiology, and engineering design. Dr. LaMack holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University, and he is an alumnus of the Biology Scholars Program of the American Society of Microbiology. Prior to becoming focused on engineering education, his research interests included hemodynamics and the study of how vascular cells respond to fluid forces and its implications in vascular pathologies.

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Icaro Dos Santos Milwaukee School of Engineering


Larry Fennigkoh P.E. Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Larry Fennigkoh is an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in medical instrumentation, biomedical engineering design, biomechanics, biostatistics, and human physiology. He is a Registered Professional Engineer and board certified in clinical engineering. He is also a member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers, Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, American College of Clinical Engineering, American Society for Engineering Education, and an inducted Fellow within both the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American College of Clinical Engineering.

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Charles S. Tritt Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Tritt's research and consulting interests include biomedical applications of mass, heat and momentum transfer; embedded systems, sensors and actuators in biomedical engineering (BME), medical process and device modeling; biomaterials; and entrepreneurship, innovation and commercialization in engineering education. His Ph.D. is in Chemical Engineering from the Ohio State University as is his B.S. degree. He holds an M.S. in MBE, also from Ohio State. He was the director of the BME program at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) from 2009 to 2017. He has been teaching at MSOE since 1990.

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The Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology Criterion 5 states that an accredited undergraduate engineering curriculum must include a capstone design process to better prepare its graduates for careers in engineering. One common pedagogical approach to teaching design focuses on problem-based learning and includes clinical immersion and educational experiences that simulate a real-world industrial design process and encourage creativity, innovation and teamwork. In line with modern practices, our program’s design sequence focuses on system engineering and includes key phases of project definition, system-level design, prototype development, and verification and validation. In the last revision, we restructured our design curriculum to ensure better continuity of design topics, to facilitate collaborative projects with industry partners, and to alleviate various academic challenges noted by faculty and indicated by students in the course evaluation questionnaires. Student assessment data that motivated this change was presented as work-in-progress at the ASEE 2018 annual meeting.

We reduced the duration of the capstone sequence from seven to four academic quarters and delayed its start to the spring term of the junior year with system design and development to be carried out in the senior year. The total credit load was reduced from thirteen to nine credits. Professional topics such as intellectual property, FDA regulations and standards which were previously covered somewhat superficially and lacked continuity, were moved to two new courses, Professional Topics in Biomedical Engineering and Biomedical Device Evaluation. The placement of these courses in the program track ensured that the timing and coverage of these topics are well aligned with the students’ progression in the design process. In this study, we evaluated the effects of the curricular change on student learning by assessing the students’ ability (a) to apply a systematic approach to identifying design inputs and outputs, and verifying their attainment; (b) to apply appropriate research and analysis tools; (c) to develop a functional prototype; (d) to work functionally as a team; (e) to stay continuously engaged. The assessment approach was three-pronged: (1) senior-exit surveys, (2) individual student performance questionnaires completed by the instructors, and (3) in-person instructor-led senior-exit debriefing session. The assessments were conducted upon completion of the design sequence. Consistency in responses among the three instruments was sought as an indication of a valid observation. Mann Whitney U-test was used to test for statistical significance (p<0.005). In May 2018, 42 seniors completed the old sequence and 27 of them participated in the assessment. In May 2019, 43 seniors completed the new sequence and 22 of them were assessed using the same methods.

We found that the curriculum changes significantly (p<0.005) improved students’ engagement in the design process and did not negatively affect the students’ ability to successfully complete their projects in a timely manner. Furthermore, the data indicated that the duration of the new design sequence was perceived by students as neither too long nor too short and allowed for timely content delivery by the instructors.

Imas, O., & LaMack, J. A., & Dos Santos, I., & Fennigkoh, L., & Tritt, C. S. (2020, June), Redesigning a Biomedical Engineering Capstone Design Sequence to Enhance Student Engagement Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35128

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