As the 2015-2016 school year comes to a well-received end, one group of students on campus is not yet out of the woods. This semester’s graduating seniors are working around the clock on their design projects to be ready for the Capstone Exposition on April 26th.
At the beginning of the spring semester, companies and hospitals around Atlanta submitted statements about problems that their employees experience to the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. Seniors then apply to work on problems they are interested in, and groups are selected based on the strengths that they bring to solving the problem. Throughout the semester, the teams work closely with industry and healthcare professionals to gather user data to put together a solution.
“It’s a really great way to see things from a different point of view,” said Jennifer Wang, one of the members of Team Dr. EMS. The group designed a mobile and web application to improve communication between first responders and the hospital. The app allows paramedics to send a visual diagram highlighting the affected areas of the patient, as well as vital signs and any extra comments. The process can be completed with one hand in less than 30 seconds, which saves a significant amount of time during an emergency. Furthermore, the app has a feedback system to let the paramedics know that the hospital has received the snapshot and is prepared to treat the patient upon arrival; the current lack of such a feature is a major issue with the communication system in place today.
The team, which consists of seniors Jennifer Wang, Tommy Ng, Shraddha Srivastava, and Amy Zhen, met with paramedics at the Grady Memorial Hospital throughout the semester to gather user data and work on their solution. After several iterations, they came up with this innovative and easily applicable idea and worked tirelessly to make it a reality. Although the Dr. EMS team has not made concrete plans to continue the project after graduation, they agreed that it has the potential to be a great product.
Another team that focused more on a physical medical device was team Ex[heal]e, consisting of members Sukhita Karthi, Miguel Monteiro, ChongIn Shin and Jiho Choi. This group focused on users with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a disease that affects about 15 million people in the U.S. today. They built a low-cost device that creates resistance during exhalation to rehabilitate the lungs and to improve breathing quality in patients. The group worked with a nurse practitioner at Emory Hospital in addition to several other pulmonologists around Atlanta to create their product. However, the final design was not what the group initially had in mind.
“We were going to go along the lines of a device that had an electrical sensor to monitor CO2 and flow levels,” said Sukhita, “But we realized that feedback is a critical user need since compliance to proper breathing techniques was a big problem.”
Ex[heal]e addressed this issue by adding in a ball with several color-coded regions on the device. Patients would have to use their breathing to keep the ball in different regions, helping them use proper breathing techniques during rehabilitation. The device garnered many positive responses from users, and the team has some interesting ideas for the future of the product if they decide to pursue the project after graduation.
Georgia Tech Biomedical Engineering seniors have the unique opportunity to gain industry experience and apply classroom-learned skills to real-world problems. Being able to work closely with professionals not only gives them a unique perspective but also helps them create useful connections and networking opportunities for any career they intend to pursue. Since the inception of the Capstone design project, there have been 12 startups, 17 award-winning projects, and 55 patent applications from the BME senior design groups, and those numbers only continue to grow.
In a field that is dependent upon innovation and creativity, Georgia Tech’s Senior design projects drive progress and not only help alleviate the inefficiencies present in the healthcare system but also improve the lives of patients around the world.