With feedback from patient advocates and health care professionals along the way, students gained skills in research, integrated feedback into proposed solutions, and worked with technical systems to prepare prototypes for potential solutions in the field.
During the summer design sprint, students then had the opportunity to brainstorm innovative designs to assist with problems encountered in pediatric nephrology. After the initial brainstorming, students prototyped and tested their designs.
“The students’ passion and creativity were truly inspiring,” said Arena, director of experiential learning in biomedical engineering and mechanics. “In only five days, they were able to integrate information from the different stakeholders and come up with unique solutions to make the process of home dialysis less intimidating for patients and caretakers. Additionally, they built working prototypes that leveraged the complementary skillsets of biomedical engineers and industrial designers.”
Each student brought their own academic perspective to the group, teaching teammates while gaining new insights from others, said Morshedzadeh. This combination of interdisciplinary collaboration and access to resources resulted in novel ideas and innovative solutions.
For the testing phase, students took their designs to Carilion Clinic’s Center for Simulation, Research and Patient Safety. Sarah Henrickson Parker, a research associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, directs Human Factors Research at the simulation center and oversaw testing of the students’ prototypes. Parker, who is also a research associate professor in the College of Science‘s department of psychology and the departments of surgery and basic science education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, also mentored students during the final testing stage.
The students had access to other mentors in related fields as well, including John Robertson, research professor in biomedical engineering and mechanics and a doctor of veterinary medicine, and Andre Muelenaer, professor of practice in biomedical engineering and mechanics and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, in addition to being a leader of TEAM Malawi, a transdisciplinary collaboration based on a community wellness model of health. Students were also mentored by health care professionals that work with home hemodialysis at Valley Nephrology Associates. The mentors’ diverse backgrounds provided perspectives students could apply.