This year’s fall Capstone Design Expo at the Georgia Institute of Technology featured 113 teams of senior engineering students who developed potential solutions to real-world needs.
For teams affiliated with the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), these projects focused on improving human health while also filling a commercial niche.
The BME projects ranged far and wide – innovative diagnostics for different conditions, like apnea, HIV and heart defects; improved surgical tools for a variety of procedures; assistive mobility devices for children with cerebral palsy; and two that earned awards at the event, which was held on Thursday, Dec. 3, in the McCamish Pavilion.
Even the team that earned the best overall project award, comprised entirely of mechanical engineering students, focused on health care. The team, Need a Hand, developed improved 3D printed prosthetic limbs for charities serving amputees injured in the Sudan Civil War.
The two award-winning Coulter Department teams were Cold and Bold, which won the interdisciplinary award for its cold cap to prevent hair loss for patients undergoing chemotherapy, and Nasaid, which took top honors in the biomedical engineering category.
Capstone projects are a requirement for senior engineering students, but for Team Cold and Bold, there was a bit more inspiration driving their project.
“I was inspired because my brother was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago,” says Ben Braun, one of two mechanical engineering students on the team along with Curry Isiminger. The other team members were BME students, Kyla Merson and Alexandra Richardson.
“I watched [my brother] lose his hair and sense of identity during his battle,” Braun says. “I want nothing more than to provide those facing the same problem a better option.”
A hair-saving method for cancer patients, utilizing a ‘cold cap,’ has been widely used in Europe and a growing number of patients in the U.S. are using the scalp-freezing treatment.
But, says Braun, “the current leading solution is expensive, uncomfortable and prone to user error.”
Team Cold and Bold utilized solid state active cooling and implemented an autonomous control system to provide a better option for those facing hair loss during chemotherapy.
“Our goal was to design a nasal aspirator for infants that is easy to handle and clean but still gets the job done,” says Sudarsan Pranatharthikaran, one of six biomedical engineers on Team Nasaid. His teammates are Ankit Raghuram, Siddhant Chawla, Suhaas Anbazhakan, Young Kyoung Kim, and Catherine Gu.
“The inspiration of our design really starts with the current trend of wearable technology,” says Prantharthikaran, whose team applied the ease of use and control of a wearable device to nasal aspiration by creating an electric nasal aspirator that can be worn on one finger, leaving the other hand available to gently hold the baby while using the suction device.
“We expect parents to go through the nasal suction process quickly without any hassle like with some of the other products on the market,” he says.
James Rains, director of Capstone for the Coulter Department, is continuously amazed at what he says is, “the impact that these students are able to make on society. They confront relevant problems in the world and help bring hope, healing and comfort to those who need it most.”
Both of these award-winning teams plan to keep the momentum going.
Team Nasaid has filed a provisional patent and hopes to participate in Georgia Tech’s InVenture competition during spring semester.
According to Richardson and Team Cold and Bold, they have a provisional patent and are exploring options to take their cold cap to market.
For Braun, a commercial hit in the marketplace would be nice. But ultimately, he sees Cold and Bold’s success as a kind of testament to his brother, who lost his battle.
“I will never have him back,” says Braun. “But if I can help people deal with what he went through, a little bit of him lives on.”
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience