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An Interprofessional Approach to Creating Medical Devices

May 22, 2019

Learners from The University of Texas at Austin and Dell Medical School collaborated this spring to design biomedical devices with the potential to improve health and care. In a cross-campus elective led by Kamran Ziai, Scott Evans and Pam Buchanan, undergraduate engineering and kinesiology students came together at the Texas Inventionworks space with first- and third-year medical students for an interprofessional look at challenges in health — and ways to address them through new tools. The course culminated with the creation of prototypes to advance ideas further.

Wayfinder: A Vibrating Cane Attachment

Students walking with their prototype for a cane with an attachment that vibrates when it senses objects.

Wayfinder aims to give people who are visually impaired a broader sense of their surroundings by using radar technology to detect hazards ahead of a cane’s reach. As the radar on the device scans the can’s surroundings, it vibrates to alert the owner about incoming objects — with the vibrations increasing in strength as the objects become nearer.

The project was inspired by one of the team members who is blind and desired more information about her surroundings. The prototype is fully functional, though accuracy could be improved in later models.

Team members: Libby Daugherty, Grace Jiang, Matthew Seghers, Vinay Shah

Orthotic Wrist Device for Hand Tremors

A prototype of an orthotic wrist device to assist with hand tremors.

This 3D-printed device restores the experience of holding a cup of coffee, water bottle and more for individuals who have hand tremors. “I would be the happiest 92-year-old in the world if I could hold my cup of coffee in the morning without spilling it,” said the grandmother of one of the participating students, sparking the idea for the project.

The device attaches securely to the wrist and acts as a cup-holder while still allowing the wearer to grip the cup. The size of the wrist attachment and cup-holder are printed to the user’s specifications, but future improvements could include an adjustable wrist strap and cup-holder.

Team members: Fawadul Haq, Mihailo Miljanic, Maxx Wilson, Khalil Wright

Epilepsy Mouthguard

A prototype of a mouthguard to assist with treating epilepsy.

For people with epilepsy, sleeping can be very dangerous if a seizure occurs in this vulnerable state. What if a mouthguard could help administer emergency medicine? That’s the idea behind a device designed to detect sudden bites associated with seizures and dispense medication through conveyor-belt delivery to mitigate false positives.

Not all seizures cause biting, however, so one next step for the tool is to explore other ways to detect seizures and respond.

Team members: Charles Boyle, Dayal Rajagopalan, Blair Westerlund, Natalie Rhames, Oliver Ha, Pooja Trivedi

Pressure-Sensor Insole for Early Detection of Diabetic Neuropathy

A prototype shoe insole to help detect diabetic neuropathy.

Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from some sort of peripheral neuropathy: weakness, numbness and pain from nerve damage. Students on this team designed an insole with sensors to detect and track neuropathy by measuring weight distribution. A feedback device captures data for a specialist to analyze.

Creating a phone application to receive and interpret the data for a patient is one potential next step for improvement. Although similar devices exist in the form of a shoe, the sole design allows people to maintain the independence of their style and could possibly be used for other conditions.

Team members: Drew Bernard, Avani Johnson, Dasia Ornelas, Brittany Moore, Yousuf Ahmed

A ‘Wheely’ Good Grip

A prototype of gloves to make operating a wheelchair easier.

Considering the loss of strength that some people in wheelchairs face, students aimed to create a way to better grip a wheelchair and propel forward when strength is low. The prototype includes “teeth” to help lock a chair and glove together in addition to magnets and padding that provides comfort and traction. Next steps? Testing and improving the longevity of effectiveness.

Team members: Garrett Johnson, Jonathan C. Wang, Victor Yip, Hayley Zorkic