A team sponsored by worldwide medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific took home the award for best biomedical engineering (BME) project at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Fall 2016 Capstone Design Expo, Tuesday night at McCamish Pavillion.
The four seniors in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (a joint department of Georgia Tech and Emory University) set out to improve catheters used during the fertility treatment, intrauterine insemination (IUI).
It is a less invasive and less expensive option, as compared to in vitro fertilization, but it can be a very painful procedure for a lot of women, explains CathART’s Derek Fritz, who will share the $1,000 prize with teammates John Baek, Yuna Oh, and Kaitlyn Wilmer-Fierro.
“The catheters on the market are a single piece, and the problem comes when a patient has curves and turns inside their cervix anatomy, which is a very tight enclosure,” Fritz says. “The catheter can poke and prod, and that friction can cause local tissue trauma. But when we noticed that the catheters have no moving parts, we thought of the ballpoint pen, and the idea of a catheter with an embedded rolling ball on the tip.”
The results: less force is applied on the instrument, less friction, and less pain. Also, Fritz adds, “the success rate of the procedure increases when you have less tissue trauma.”
Like all 117 teams (from six different schools and two colleges) in the competition, time might have presented the greatest challenge for CathART – these teams of engineering seniors are required to devise and carry out their plans (which is supposed to result in a working prototype) in a single semester.
“Yeah, time definitely was a constraint, but the big production challenge for us was the sheer size of the device,” Fritz says. “These are very tiny catheters and our part was too small for 3D printing.”
So they tediously produced it on a lathe out of an engineering thermoplastic used for precision parts requiring high stiffness and, importantly, low friction. The sponsor was delighted with the team’s solution.
“We’re interested in this market space and wanted to make this procedure more comfortable for women, and this team did a great job of addressing that,” says Stacy Kromenhoek, the senior project manager for global technology at Boston Scientific who personified the company’s sponsorship.
CathART was one of 22 teams from BME that tackled a wide range of problems. One team (TraceLess) designed a device to minimize the risk of tumor-seeding caused during biopsy. Another team (Caring Heart Folks) developed a remote monitoring system for people recovering from congestive heart failure. A team Up & Running Shoes designed shoes that act as self-charging fitness trackers, converting the wearer’s motion and body heat into energy. And at least two teams – UreTech and The Rolling Stonez – designed devices to improve the treatment of kidney stones.
These teams and more than a hundred others from across the engineering spectrum drew a shoulder-to-shoulder procession of science lovers and other onlookers (family, friends, faculty, judges, etc.) to what is a rite of passage for undergraduate students in several disciplines at Georgia Tech.
Capstone Design is a semester-long course that gives students real-world, open-ended interdisciplinary challenges, which are typically proposed by industrial and research project sponsors. Student teams design, build, and test their prototypes, then showcase their work at an Expo (there are two each academic year, one at the end of each semester).
The event gives sponsors a chance to see how their project was conceptualized. For its part, Boston Scientific liked what it saw.
“We funded this project because we knew there was exceptional talent here,” Kromenhoek says. “This team taught us so much. They mentored us as much as we mentored them. We loved supporting them, and we plan to be here again next semester.”
CAPSTONE DESIGN EXPO
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Parker H. Petit Institute for
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