Last month, BME 1008 finished another outstanding semester! Since the University began allowing students to pick their majors in their freshman year, BME 1008 has been the focus of a department-wide effort to help students gain an understanding of what a degree in biomedical engineering entails early on in their undergraduate degrees.

The addition of a second credit hour has enabled the department to expand the class and offer new and exciting aspects to BME 1008. Through collaboration with the STEM Transformation Institute and a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), BME 1008 has taken on a new look. The collaboration supports course transformation by providing learning assistants, summer planning support, and participation in a course design institute at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching.  Associate Professor Jorge Riera was selected to serve as an ONR Faculty Scholar and has spearheaded the transformative efforts. Senior Instructor Dr. Michael Brown will be further enhancing the course.

One of the most exciting aspects of the BME 1008 transformation has been the implementation of group research projects. The research projects are designed to provide students with the computational skills needed to be successful throughout their pursuit of a degree in Biomedical Engineering. The research project enables the students to utilize MATLAB®, a high-level programming language and computational environment extensively used in industry and academia, and conduct biomedical data acquisition using electronic hardware. By introducing these skills early on in the program, students are now better prepared to take on the rigors of more advanced classes. They also enhance the likelihood of participation by the students in undergraduate research and likelihood of seeking graduate level degrees.

The research projects complement an already existing component of the course which introduces freshmen to Senior Design projects. Senior design projects serve as the capstone undergraduate experience for students completing their degree. Involving the freshmen in this experience gives them a glimpse of some of the things they will be able to accomplish during their time as an undergraduate biomedical engineering student. Freshmen students are paired into groups and linked to different senior design teams. Although they are not direct collaborators, freshmen work closely with the senior teams. They pick two focus areas of the projects to concentrate on and complete their own assignments. They can choose from assessing clinical need, market assessment, drawbacks, and design. Picking the two tasks affords them flexibility and provides them with a better understanding of the overall project goals.

Jorge Riera, Associate Professor and BME 1008 Instructor, says, “The class provides the students with the confidence that comes from having enhanced their knowledge. It equips them with the necessary framework for successful academic careers.”

Much like the research projects, the Shark Tank assignment is another important exercise that allows the students the opportunity to apply their classroom learning into practical industry designs. The Shark Tank is a new aspect of the course which was made possible by the increase in credit hours. As a team, students create detailed presentations to present in front of an expert panel of judges – their fellow classmates. Each group has the opportunity to serve as the entrepreneurs and the investors. Thinking beyond current technologies, the goal of the project is to look into the future of biomedical engineering and present a proposal for a medical device that may become available to the public in the next 20 years. The final proposals are judged by the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Student Organization (BMES). Riera says, “The students do an excellent job working together to come up with practical solutions. It is a fun assignment that has real world applications.”