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Work in Progress: Development of a Need-based BME Design Course Focused on Current NICU Challenges

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1386.1 - 24.1386.4



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Paper Authors


Kyle Steven Martin University of Virginia

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Kyle Martin is a graduate student at the University of Virginia in Dr. Shayn Peirce-Cottler's laboratory. Kyle's research is focused on agent-based modeling of skeletal muscle function and fibrosis. He is equally interested in teaching and has been both a TA and co-teacher, as well as attends workshops and seminars concerning teaching methods and academic jobs.

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Works in Progress: Development of a need-based BME design course focused on current NICU challengesAbstractDesign is a vital component to an undergraduate engineering education. At our institute, we offerdesign courses each year of the undergraduate curriculum to teach the fundamentals of design(from needs identification and brainstorming to manufacturing and commercialization). In orderto challenge the students and improve their communication skills, professionalism, and researchabilities, we created a design course focused exclusively on the real-world, clinical needs in onearea of the hospital, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In this sophomore level designcourse, a neonatologist was invited to give a talk concerning the conditions and limitationsassociated with technology used to aid and support premature infants. This talk outlined boththeir medical conditions (e.g., skin sensitivity and susceptibility, breathing and oxygenregulation), as well as current methods to support and protect the infants (e.g., incubators,monitoring devices). The doctor also outlined numerous problems currently plaguing the NICU.Students were encouraged to ask questions and write follow-up emails to willing doctors, nurses,and families in the NICU. Additionally, all students were invited to go into the NICU as teams toobserve current conditions, watch procedures, analyze unoccupied equipment, and ask questionsto nurses, doctors, and parents. The emphasis was on promoting the students’ abilities to identifyproblems, evaluate the needs of the staff, and then develop a solution for the problem they hadidentified.The semester long course had ambitious goals for the students; create a working prototype fromtheir investigations in the NICU. In order to accomplish this formidable undertaking, we dividedthe class up into eight teams of ten students. Each team was assigned a mentor/advisor who waseither a graduate student or a volunteering senior student. The mentors were instructed to assistdiscussions and facilitate learning and research. Memos were assigned weekly to keep the teamsworking towards their design. Each memo was intended to accent a particular part of theengineering design process (constraints identification, brainstorming, market analysis, etc.). Atthe end of the semester, each team presented their designs to the class. The designs were judgedby faculty based on innovation, marketability, and feasibility.Another novel aspect of the course was the inclusion of a graduate teaching fellow to co-teachthe course. Our engineering school offers graduate students the opportunity to gain teachingexperience by applying for competitive teaching fellow positions. The teaching fellow mustparticipate in all aspects of the course, including syllabus generation, grading, teaching, andstudent evaluation. This unique combination of teachers facilitated direct instructor/studentinteractions and offered multiple perspectives on topics and discussions. Overall, the designcourse allowed the students to work on real engineering problems of their own choosing withinthe NICU, and the opportunity to learn how to access challenges and constraints involved indesign. Additionally, multiple groups filed provisional patents and entered design competitionsin an effort to continue moving their designs toward commercialization. Since this was a pilotcourse, formal evaluations of the NICU design challenge would be conducted once this course isrepeated.

Martin, K. S. (2014, June), Work in Progress: Development of a Need-based BME Design Course Focused on Current NICU Challenges Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23319

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