In addressing the challenge of rising healthcare costs, medical technology innovation is needed to reduce costs, improve outcomes, and make care accessible and affordable. Meanwhile, biomedical engineers are increasingly asked to develop user-centered solutions. Nevertheless, making the solution desirable among users has been often neglected in the innovation process. To biomedical engineering educators, it remains unclear how to effectively stimulate user-centered innovation potential in an undergraduate biomedical engineering curriculum as there are a lack of studies discussing the interplay between design novelty and solution desirability.
This study aims to develop a user-centered innovation potential assessment instrument applicable to diverse biomedical engineering design projects. Particularly, this study investigates biomedical engineering student’s innovative design thinking in design prototyping. This investigation is guided by the following research questions: 1) how biomedical engineering students demonstrate innovation potential in their design projects; 2) how biomedical engineering students who have had nearly identical curriculum differ in their design projects when approaching innovative thinking; and 3) how biomedical engineering students bridge the gap between technology novelty and solution desirability.
This study is an exploratory study over two semesters, including nearly 20 design projects and around 70 biomedical engineering senior students who were taking a capstone design course. The instrument development was built on File and Purzer (2014)’s definition of innovation potential (1) feasibility (2) viability (3) desirability and (4) novelty. Among these aspects, we focused on the assessment of feasibility, desirability and novelty, which can be quantified and assigned to each design idea proposed by the students. To measure these metrics, we used student’s design journal and a specific in-class ideation assignment as our main data source. To validate our assessment instrument, we applied thematic analysis. We first identified patterns from the design ideas by extracting key attributes such as timeline to complete the project, cost-effective materials, and on-campus resources availability. Next, we estimated the frequency of the key attributes in a design idea and converted each of them to a 5-point scale. Finally, we calculated a composite score for user-centered engineering innovation potential by multiplying the scales on feasibility, desirability and novelty. The students focused only on design conceptualization in the first semester whereas in the second semester, they were required to emphasize both design conceptualization and prototyping.
In the first semester, we observed that ten project teams defined a realistic timeline to complete their projects. Five teams proposed the use of accessible or budget friendly materials and six proposed the use of equipment available on campus. We found that students’ expectations in the proposal phase were often driven by the desire of designing high caliber technology, but often lack the understanding of user-centered needs. We will run the assessment for the second semester on an identical cohort of students but different projects.
The authors believe that this study improves our understanding on user-centered innovation potential in an undergraduate biomedical engineering curriculum and provide insights on how to effectively design interventions to stimulate the development of user-centered innovative thinking skills among biomedical engineers.
The full paper will be available to logged in and registered conference attendees once the conference starts on
June 22, 2020, and to all visitors after the conference ends on June 26, 2021
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.