A critical step in undergraduate biomedical engineering capstone design projects is problem identification and validation. This process requires training in observation and root-cause analysis. For projects developed around a clinical need, active training in observation for large groups (>50 students) is logistically challenging. Many clinical procedures limit observation groups to 3 students or fewer. Our team leader model, upon which this program was conceived, can alleviate these issues, reducing the logistical burden on clinical resources and enabling a peer education system. In this model, a capable student is selected to a leader for each project team in the fall of the previous semester.
A one-credit semester-long team leader course was developed this year to precede the traditional longitudinal, yearlong design team course in the Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering Department. Team leaders completed training in need identification and validation, and a weeklong clinical immersion to facilitate active learning of these skills in the week before the start of spring term. Leaders additionally received didactic training in team organization and operation. Subsequently, leaders selected their teams (based on their own criteria) and led them through targeted clinical observation in project areas of interest.
These project areas are selected from clinical problems proposed by individual clinical faculty. After faculty vetting of these submissions for appropriateness in scope, clinical faculty presented their clinical problems to the class. Leaders translated their learning of need validation to their teams, and together they develop their own criteria for project selection. The team leader course culminated with each team selecting and validating of a project for their capstone design course.
This model gave both leaders and team members the opportunity to do efficient clinical observation and shifted the logistical burden from the few faculty in the course and willing clinical faculty to the 15 team leaders and the clinicians promoting their projects of interest. Completing this training ahead of the capstone design course allowed teams to start with a deeper understanding of their project need and practical clinical constraints, a working relationship with their clinical mentor, and primer on team and project management. Results through the fall thus far demonstrate superior need statements and specifications in general, and prototype development much earlier than in prior years. Although the program is promising and scalable, the differences in education and prototype development in the year ahead will be a truer measure of impact.
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