UC Students Earn Top Spots in National Biomedical Engineering Design Competitions
CINCINNATI—A team of University of Cincinnati (UC) students has reached the top levels of two national competitions designed to find the best new medical devices in the nation’s universities.
Members of the “Single Port Solutions” team placed in the final round of the 2009 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Innovation Showcase (ASME IShow). They also placed among the top three teams in the BMEidea competition, sponsored by National Collegiate Investors and Innovators and the National Science Foundation.
To be successful, students must show judges their products are both innovative and commercially feasible—if they win, they receive seed money to commercialize their device. UC’s team will spend early June traveling from New York City to California to present its work and accept its awards.
The UC team’s device, a single port laparoscopic access tool, allows surgeons to perform common laparoscopic surgeries with only one entry point—located in the umbilicus, or belly button. Usually, those surgeries are done through four or five entry points, said team leader and student Michael Wirtz.
“What our tool does is consolidate all the ports into the access tool,” says Wirtz. “Using our device, the surgeon is able to perform a normal laparoscopic procedure, like a gall bladder removal or appendectomy, through the single port. They’ll still be able to insert all the instruments they need while hiding the scar in the umbilicus—so you have little scarring and it reduces trauma and improves recovery time of the patient.”
The single entry port also decreases the risk of herniation from cuts in the abdominal wall, says Wirtz.
Mary Beth Privitera, an assistant professor in the biomedical engineering department, is director of the program, which brings students from the Colleges of Business, Engineering, Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, to solve problems in the medical fields.
The team developed the single port access tool with suggestions from UC surgeons, spending the following months developing their concept, creating prototypes and verifying their design in surgical labs.
Without careful design, Privitera says the device could be “very, very cumbersome” for surgeons.
“But the team has done a very good job of giving the doctors little features and benefits that will make their job easier,” she says.
In addition to recognizing UC as a high-ranking program in device design and biomedical engineering, Privitera says the ASME IShow and BMEidea results will help propel the students’ careers: “They’ll meet other award winners, investors and device design professionals. It will put them in front of the right people.
“This particular group of students has excelled all along the way,” she says. “With access from Department of Surgery to support from (Vice President for Research) Sandra Degen’s office, we’ve made it a really successful process.”
In addition to Wirtz and Privitera, members of the Single Port Solutions team include Kyle Fath, UC Biomedical Engineering; Miao Wang, UC Industrial Design; Steve Haverkos, UC Biomedical Engineering, and Prakash Gatta, MD, UC Department of General Surgery, clinical advisor for the team.