The BME Capstone Senior Design sequence at Northwestern University is among the oldest and most venerable in the nation. It was originated in the early 1980's by Prof. Thomas Goldstick as a course designed specifically to develop students'technical skills through quantitative modeling and experimental investigation. Nearly three decades later, the course has been expanded in scope and extended in duration and is more central than ever to the success of the BME curriculum. BME Capstone Senior Design is now a two or three quarter sequence that follows on from a junior year sequence of preparatory courses in signal processing, systems identification, and design of experiments, and includes significant instruction in oral communication. Many projects involve medical device design for the developing world, and the success of these projects has spawned two design-centered programs in Global Health Technologies. In this proposal we seek to further expand our work in resource-poor and underserved populations by addressing the medical problems of segments of the population in the greater Chicago area. We will collaborate with social service agencies, community clinics, and faculty in our public health and pediatrics programs to identify problems and develop engineering-based solutions. We will also develop an internship program for students to continue to work on the projects they worked on in class. The course is structured around such projects because it is one of the best ways to teach engineering design. The projects clearly motivate our students and the community may benefit from the work that we do, but it is the state of medical care for underserved populations that provides the opportunities for our students to excel. Whether in the townships of South Africa or the community clinics on the west side of Chicago, the populations, disease profiles, and economics are different than in the primary hospitals and doctors'offices of the mainstream US healthcare system. Identifying user needs, assessing the available resources and devising ways to meet the functional design requirements in unfamiliar settings at low cost is a challenge. The fact that many of these needs have not been addressed by the larger medical device industry gives us an extraordinary opportunity to teach the essence of engineering design.
Underserved populations around the globe are a rich source of design projects for biomedical engineering students. For the past five years, The BME Capstone Senior Design program at Northwestern University has partnered with institutions and centers that seek solutions to interesting and important heath problems of the poor and the young in Cape Town, South Africa. The enhancements to the program proposed here will expand these programs and extend the ideas to address analogous problems in health care in Chicago and the surrounding communities.
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