Two teams take home $50,000 in prizes in biodesign course competition: UNM Newsroom
Two teams of students won $50,000 in prizes in the annual biodesign competition on Dec. 14, jointly sponsored by the School of Engineering and the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at the School of Medicine at the University of New Mexico.
The competition is part of a graduate-level biodesign course that asks students to solve common problems faced by professionals in the medical field. Student teams are then challenged to come up with innovative products and devices that meet these needs and must provide a budget and plan to further develop and commercialize their technology.
The student teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges – including experts in engineering, business and the medical field – who then made the final selections.
Each year an area of clinical interest is chosen, and this year it was orthopaedics.
The team that won first place, winning $30,000, was “PICA – Prosthetic Implant for Carpometacarpal Arthritis”. PICA offers a treatment for a painful and common condition that currently has no permanent solution. The PICA device would be implanted in the thumb to constrain the CMC joint to resolve pain and maintain thumb strength in patients with severe osteoarthritis.
The students on this team were Ethan Darwin, a master’s student in mechanical engineering; August Finke, master’s student in chemical engineering; Dimitri Madden, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering; and Lauren Ostermann and Diego Rodriguez, both chemical and biological engineering graduates.
The runner-up team, which won $20,000 to further develop, test and commercialize their invention, was “Lower-Extremity Guided Assisted Rehabilitation Device (LEGARD)”. LEGARD addresses the problem of rehabilitation physiotherapy following total hip arthroplasty. Although surgery is common, many barriers exist for patients to receive adequate rehabilitation care, which can limit functional recovery and the patient’s quality of life. This is especially true in rural New Mexico, where many patients live far from physical therapy facilities.
The innovation involves a device that allows patients to rehabilitate at home, with advice and feedback provided via an app.
The students on this team were Tara Memarian, Leonard Ruggiero and Adam Magaña, master’s students in biomedical engineering; Elias Rosales-Zaragoza, graduate in mechanical engineering; Katherine Miles, Masters Student in Mechanical Engineering; Tybur Casuse Driovinto, a Ph.D. student at the Center for Micro-engineering Materials; and Rebekah Gridley, Master of Exercise Science student,
The other teams that presented were:
“3D Printed Synthetic Osteochondral Graft,” with students Emily Rhoades-Clark, Ph.D. engineering student; Jawad Khalaf and Samuel McKitrick, both master’s students in biomedical engineering; and Daniel Seligman and Matthew Aragon, both master’s students in mechanical engineering.
“Framewerk: The Foundation of Improve Rehabilitation,” with students Maren Baur, undergraduate student in biomedical and mechanical engineering; Jorge Canales Verdial, a Ph.D. electrical engineering student; Nika Mitchell, master’s student in biomedical engineering; Ethan Schmidt, master’s student in mechanical engineering; Laura Stacy, master’s student in biomedical engineering; and Rocio Vasquez, a graduate student in mechanical engineering.
“CIIBR: Chemically Illuminating Adhesive for Arthroscopic Instrument Breakage,” with students Rachel Habing, Sara Hasan, and Gabriela Lucero, all master’s students in biomedical engineering; and Claire O’Malley, an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering.
The contest judges were Sara Boisvert, entrepreneur and founder of New Collar Network and Fab Lab Hub; Christos Christodoulou, Jim and Ellen King Dean of Engineering and Computer Science; Yorgos Marinakis, assistant professor at the Anderson School of Management; Eric Prossnitz, professor emeritus in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Molecular Medicine; Christopher Shultz, physician and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center; and Steven Walsh, distinguished professor at the Anderson School of Management.
The graduate-level biodesign course is led by Christina Salas, Associate Professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation who is also Special Assistant to the Dean of Engineering for Health Sciences Relations. Salas said the Biodesign course is modeled after a similar curriculum at Stanford University.
During the semester, students take a crash course in their selected medical specialty for that year – talking to doctors, nurses, and patients and visiting important medical facilities to learn more about real-world clinical challenges awaiting solution. Students spend two to three weeks in this medical setting, immersing themselves in clinical issues and learning about the medical specialty. Then, under the direction of Dr. Salas, divide into teams to research and design technology that can solve a clinical problem in that specialty.
At the end of the semester, student teams disclose their technology to UNM Rainforest Innovations, UNM’s technology transfer office, submit a provisional patent application to protect their technology, and compete for up to $50 in funding. $000 to support the manufacturing, testing and marketing of their new product. The winning team award is funded by the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences in the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering.
Work on each winning design continues for at least a year after the semester ends, with Salas serving as a mentor. After the semester, students can continue working on their technologies by enrolling in an independent study course with their homeroom teacher.
Salas said the course primarily appeals to health sciences and engineering students, but is open to most majors that allow electives from the School of Engineering.