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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 23, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 31
BME Problem-Solvers

Eli Luong, Jennifer Hoi and David Huberdeau were part of an eight-member team that developed a prototype for a device that could help orthopedic surgeons better locate metal screws. The work was done in their BME Design Team course.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer / HIPS

Design Day: Students showcase solutions to faculty, industry needs

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

To remove small orthopedic hardware, surgeons currently use what is called C-arm fluoroscopy to indicate the orientation and position of the tiny metal screws and nails. The two-dimensional image, however, is far from ideal, and surgeons often have difficulty locating the screw head, a shortcoming that can extend the length of the procedure.

To better aid orthopedic surgeons frustrated by the technology, a team of Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering students has designed the prototype of a metal detector device that would more accurately locate orthopedic implants in conjunction with the use of C-arm fluoroscopy.

Jennifer Hoi, a senior biomedical engineering student and co-leader of the project team, said that the prototype looks very promising, and the group should know more very soon about how much surgery time the device can save.

Hoi joked that she wasn't always this optimistic.

"It was looking pretty bleak in the beginning," Hoi said with a laugh. "But this past semester we really pulled through, and we are very happy by how the prototype turned out. We have the solid basics down now and are in the fine-tuning stage."

The device is one of 12 that will be on display at the second annual BME Design Day, an all-day event that showcases the medical devices developed by undergraduate, and some graduate, students in the Whiting School's Biomedical Engineering Department. This year's event will be held on Wednesday, May 2, in 210 Hodson Hall, Homewood campus, and will once again draw industry representatives and alumni as well as faculty and students. More than 100 people have already registered to attend.

The students will deliver both oral and poster presentations on the design ideas that resulted from their research or course work.

Nine of the projects will be from undergraduates enrolled in BME's Design Team course, in which groups of students at all grade levels work together during the fall and spring semesters to solve a problem. Each team's goal is the creation of a prototype, artifact, system or process that achieves its objectives and performs functions to meet a biomedical need.

The other three projects to be showcased come from seniors and graduate students enrolled in BME's Instrumentation course.

This week, the department will select five projects that will be the featured presentations during the event's morning segment. These presentations will be followed by the Medtronic Distinguished Lecture, given this year by Mir Imran, founder and CEO of InCube Laboratories and one of the world's most successful inventors, entrepreneurs and investors in health care. Imran holds more than 200 patents, most notably one for the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

The afternoon portion of the event will feature a student poster session, student instrumentation presentation and, finally, an awards ceremony for the top three design projects as selected by a panel of judges. The team presented with the top prize will receive $2,000 from Boston Scientific.

Each design team comprises seven to 10 undergraduate students, including designated senior leaders, who work together on a specific problem posed by sponsors, predominantly School of Medicine clinicians and local biomedical companies.

"A lot of our clinicians have concepts and design ideas, but they don't have the manpower, engineering expertise or lab space to bring their ideas to fruition," said Aditya Polasani, coordinator of BME Design Day and industrial liaison associate for the Biomedical Engineering Department. "We help them partner with students who have the technical expertise, the time and the desire to develop a functioning prototype while also conducting intellectual property assessment and market research analysis."

The design projects, which are funded by the sponsors and the department, culminate in a prototype, a final report and an assessment of commercial application.

BME Design Day seeks to spotlight the success of translational research. Working together, faculty from the School of Medicine and students from the Department of Biomedical Engineering have created numerous inventions, filed for a number of patents, founded several start-up companies and provided the basis for licensing agreements for the university, according to Murray Sachs, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Sachs said that the projects that will be on display on Design Day are all noteworthy.

"All the projects we choose to support have the potential for commercial and clinical application, or both," he said.

The May 2 event will also feature the official announcement of the opening of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design.

The mission of the center is to improve human health by developing medical devices that solve important clinical problems, and to educate a new generation of medical device engineers and clinical fellows. The center also will facilitate technology transfer and commercialization of inventions developed by students, clinicians and research scientists.

Sachs said that this translational research center, a partnership between the schools of Engineering and Medicine, will enable the Biomedical Engineering Department to expand the capacity to undertake complex and challenging medical device design and development projects while also providing greater access for industry, clinicians and research scientists to collaborate with Johns Hopkins students.

In addition to Metal Detector Device for Removal of Surgical Screws, other projects on display will include Anterior Lumbar Spine Plate, Intuitive Airway Management, Rapid Glaucoma Screening Device and Hands-free Crutch for Ankle, Foot and Toe Injuries.

For more information, and to register for the event, go to


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