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Sustainable Development Challenge For BME

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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

Connecting BME education to the "real world"

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Joe Tranquillo Bucknell University

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Dr. Joseph (Joe) Tranquillo is an Associate Professor at Bucknell University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, He is also co-director of the Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management, co-director of the KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Program, and chair of the Biomedical Engineering Division of ASEE. Tranquillo has published three undergraduate textbooks and numerous engineering education publications, and has presented internationally on engineering and education. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, CNN Heath and TEDx. He was a US Case Professor of the Year nominee and a National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education faculty member.

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On September 25, 2015, 193 members of the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose was to provide measurable outcomes and focused allocation of resources toward solving the world’s most pressing problems. The goals, however, are also rich in pedagogical opportunities. They are as open-ended and real-world as any problems students will encounter, require interdisciplinary thinking and innovation across disciplines (e.g. none of the problems can be solved through technology alone) and are manifest and will be solved on a geo-political scale. The Sustainable Development Goals naturally bring to the forefront several trends in higher education including sustainability, entrepreneurship, design, and internationalization. Furthermore, the website ( is well organized and contains information on several hundred sub-goals. This paper outlines the development of a variety of design challenges for biomedical engineers associated with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the past three years, teams of 2-3 students engaged in a design sprint. They were asked to identify one of the Sustainable Development Goals and a country in which that goal is particularly pressing. Through a series of guided exercises they focused on a sub-problem, articulated a value proposition, and developed several on-paper solutions. They then selected a solution, built a working prototype and developed and executed simple validation tests. The challenge concluded with an expo, judged by the faculty.

Assessment of learning goals will be shared from the past three years of a two-week design challenge that begins our senior capstone course (n=46), as well as an extra-curricular 10-day intensive January program (n=16), and a co-curricular 5-day intensive program in rural Chile with no internet or cell phone access (n=33). Student and faculty observations will also included. Feedback from students shows that the Goals resonate with the millennial and Z generation students and stimulates active, creative and collaborative engagement.

It is hoped that sharing the UN Sustainable Development Design Challenge will inspire other instructors to find ways to adapt the process to other pedagogical environments.

Tranquillo, J. (2018, June), Sustainable Development Challenge For BME Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31038

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