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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 12, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 34
Judgment Day for BME Projects

Erica Jantho, Hanlin Wan and Swarnali Sengupta demonstrate their team's ICU Mover, a mobility aid designed to reduce the amount of time and staff required to safely ambulate critical care patients. The device was one of the winning entries.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

By Phil Sneiderman

Biomedical engineering students who spent the past school year devising new tools to help diagnose and treat patients unveiled their work last week before judges and dozens of interested observers at the department's annual Design Day event.

In recent years, Design Day has been held at Homewood, but last week's event took place on the East Baltimore campus to make it more convenient for School of Medicine faculty members to attend. Most of this year's design projects were sponsored by School of Medicine faculty members seeking new or enhanced tools and devices for their work.

The 15 teams that took part in oral and poster presentations included nine undergraduate groups and one graduate group that spent two semesters on their design projects and four undergraduate teams that spent one semester and an intersession on theirs.

Each undergraduate team, usually consisting of eight to 10 students, included a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen. The goal, course instructors said, is to give biomedical engineering majors a chance to gain hands-on engineering experience as soon as they enter the program.

The first-place prize went to the team that developed SurgyPack, a system that should enable physicians to move and secure a patient's intestines away from the operating area during abdominal surgery. The student inventors say this system should cut the time required for this "packing" procedure and reduce the likelihood of injury to the patient.

In recent weeks, this team's project, under the name SurgyTech, also scored first-place wins in two state and regional student business plan competitions.

Second-place honors in the Design Day competition went to the ICU Mover undergraduate team. Its device includes a tower for sensitive medical equipment attached to a combination wheelchair- walker. It is designed to allow seriously ill intensive-care patients, who are normally kept highly sedated and immobile, to get out of bed and walk. This therapy is believed to improve the patient's recovery.

The third-place award went to a device made to improve the visibility of markers used in focused-beam radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

Judges for the contest said the top three projects were so close in quality that they awarded each team the same amount of prize money: $3,500.

According to Design Day organizers, biomedical engineering student team projects in recent years have led to a number of provisional patents, licensing agreements and start-up companies.


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