JHU engineering student projects on display at annual Design Days

In laboratories across the Homewood campus, engineering students have been putting the finishing touches on designs that range from a medical devices that aid in the resuscitation of newborns to a lightweight inflatable bridge that could make it easier for soldiers to cross chasms in the field.

BME Design Day

Image caption: Junior Margaret Chow shows off her biomedical engineering project, a glove that would allow physicians to assess remotely the severity of a patient's Parkinson's disease symptoms.

Engineering Design Days have become a rite-of-passage at Johns Hopkins in recent years, as students work around the clock in the last weeks of the semester to finish yearlong projects that test their theoretical knowledge and practical skills. They present their projects beginning today.

"We're in good shape now," says Will Crawford, 22, of Severna Park, Md., who worked on a four-person mechanical engineering team to build an inflatable bridge for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. "But a few weeks ago, we were in the lab from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m."

Today, mechanical engineering students will present design solutions to challenges posed by sponsoring industries, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. This year, projects range from a custom-made elevator lift capable of transporting 800-pound cargo to a vision-based design to prevent children from being left unintentionally in hot cars. The event will be held in Hodson Hall, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Each team is given a budget, access to resources, and technical contacts," said Kevin Hemker, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "But they must design and deliver a working prototype to their sponsors, complete with a design history, user manual, and specifications."

Tomorrow, the Department of Biomedical Engineering will host presentations on the Johns Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore, in the Armstrong Building, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. These projects will include medical devices invented by master's students in BME's Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design.

"We are rapidly emerging as a leader in the translation of scientific and technical advances into clinical applications that improve patient care," said Elliot R. McVeigh, professor and director of the BME department. "You will see projects developed with regular mentorship, and in some cases co-invention, by a clinician or other community health worker, mainly from Johns Hopkins Medicine."

BME students also work with global health partner Jhpiego on medical improvements applicable to the global marketplace. Senior Anne Pigula, 22, from Lawrenceville, N.J., recently returned from a weeklong trip to Nepal to test her team's suite of tools, called Neo2Inspire, designed to help healthcare workers successfully resuscitate newborns. The tools include a collapsible mat to properly position an infant to keep its airways open during resuscitation.

"The trip changed the way we were looking at the design, and it helped us understand the differing needs of a hospital or home delivery," Pigula said. As a result, students modified their product to include a stationary mat (for the hospital) and a more portable, collapsible mat (for home births). "The whole experience helped me understand that you have to consider the perspective of the user," Pigula added.