The Department of Biomedical Engineering has its main design course sequence starting in the second semester of the student’s junior year with a biomedical design course, followed by the capstone project during the student’s senior year. In the Biomedical design course, the Biodesign method is introduced along with instruction on human centered design (HCD) using the LUMA design thinking toolset. Students, during exit interviews, acknowledge the satisfaction with the strategy of merging Biodesign with HCD and they suggest an early introduction of these methodologies in the curriculum.
During the last two years, we created a sequence of hands-on activities in the introduction to Biomedical Engineering Course to introduce HCD using the LUMA Design Thinking tools. The main strategy is to enable the students, working in teams, to build a device to solve an unmet medical need using a given technology.
To boost the student’s craftsmanship competencies, an initial training is performed before giving the final HCD design project. The students develop their craftsmanship skills in 3D modeling and the use of microcontrollers for sensing and actuation. We provide each student with a bag containing an Arduino microcontroller, a set of carefully selected set sensors and actuators and a sequence of 10 problems of increasing complexity that must be solved using only the given materials in a short timeframe. Each freshman team is assigned an undergraduate instructional assistant (normally a senior) that mentors the team in a problem based, flipped classroom setting.
Once the craftsmanship training is finished, the students are randomly assigned to an open project that will require them to use a given technology to produce a useful device for a human being. They follow a scaffolded methodology with multiple milestones that require the use of the LUMA design thinking tools to develop and test their product. Students follow a very similar sequence of activities of a capstone project and produce a report, following a structured template. The students are required to define the stakeholders involved in their product to develop the disease state fundamentals, the specifications of their product, to build and to test their prototype.
The student surveys and the end of course evaluations show a general student satisfaction with their experience. They are very satisfied with the fact that they can build an innovative and useful device. After the first time the activity was delivered, some students expressed frustration with the problem-based learning approach; they expected a regular, formal instruction in microcontrollers, sensors and CAD before being confronted with problems. During the second delivery of the activity, the instructor reduced the expectations of formal training from students and stressed the importance of self and cooperative learning in the BME profession.
The student teams are assigned using CATME Smarter Teamwork. The student team skills are evaluated at the end of the course using CATME as well. The students also fill out a survey discussing which aspects of the hands-on experience they liked and which aspects they wish their experience had. The student responses are analyzed and clustered to identify improvement opportunities.
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