Monthly Archives: June 2018

Project Title: Laser-Guided Ankle Positioning for Total Ankle Arthroplasty

Team 17079 Members:
Madison Cooper, biomedical engineering
Dani McEachern, biomedical engineering
Daniel Medrano, mechanical engineering
Gabriella Romano, biomedical engineering
Jarod C. Weber, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Paragon 28

Laser-Focused Seniors Design Ankle Alignment Accuracy

In total ankle arthroplasty, or ankle replacement, procedures, surgeons must ensure that placement of an ankle prosthesis is aligned correctly with the patient’s hip, while still allowing the ankle to have six degrees of freedom of movement.

Surgeons ensure this alignment by cutting two fixation points on the patient’s ankle and shin. This introduces two sites of trauma and two sites for possible infection, and increases recovery time and the number of steps in postoperative protocol.

For their senior project, Team 17079 designed a system that uses a laser beam shining from ankle to hip to attain the correct alignment, eliminating the need for a second fixation point and achieving a level of accuracy that exceeds existing methods.

“This could open doorways to rethink the way we do orthopedic surgery,” said team leader Daniel Medrano.

To do it, they exceeded the project requirements, going through three prototypes of the finished product, and many more rounds of prototyping for each of the system’s custom-designed components.

Team member Gabriella Romano used the research lab she works in to 3D-print the first prototype for the laser mount and brought it home in her backpack. That night, her house was robbed, and her backpack — laptop, prototype and all — were gone.

Beating the ‘Bad News Bears’ Luck

“I think I had the prototype for all of two hours,” she said. “If they made an underdog or a ‘Bad News Bears’ story for engineers, that was us.”

But the team didn’t give up hope. They forged ahead with their prototyping and called in associate professor of orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering Dr. Daniel Latt, an orthopedic surgeon, to perform two mock procedures using their device.

His feedback indicated the guide was easy to use and improved one of the most important alignment steps in the surgery. Their average angular deviation was +/- 0.75 percent, lower than current alignment guides on the market.

Frank Barmes, a project engineer at Paragon 28 and one of the team’s corporate mentors, said he appreciated what the students’ diverse experiences and interests brought to the project. The company has even submitted a provisional patent application for the device.

“The team worked well together for great results,” he said. “We fully expect to continue the project through commercialization.”

Hard Work, Sacrifice Earn Design Day Win

The team spent hours practicing their presentation in the days leading up to Design Day. They were proud of their hard work, but weren’t expecting any outstanding accolades when the big event rolled around.

Once it arrived, they were surprised by the number of people — both judges and passers-by — who told them their device could make a real impact in the medical field. When they were announced as the winners of the Raytheon Award for Best Overall Design, the $5,000 top prize, their jaws dropped.

One of the first people to come up to Romano was her academic adviser, who assured her that the whole team would have no problem finding jobs after their win.

“My group and I worked endlessly on this project, and at times we had to sacrifice other classes’ study time,” Medrano said. “But, in the end, it was well worth our efforts because it has changed our future. And how many engineering students can say they won Design Day?”

Project Title: Balance and Cognition Fall Intervention Application

Team 17006 Members:
Rose Blank, engineering management with systems and industrial engineering minor
Samuel Younghwan Kim, biomedical engineering
Zhongpu Li, electrical and computer engineering
Cameron McHugh, biomedical engineering
Sheldon Ruiz, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Arizona Center on Aging

Students Focus on Helping People, Improving Lives with Smartphone App

Adults ages 60 and older have an increased risk of falling — and injuring themselves — due to diminished neuromuscular feedback. But performing simple exercises can increase neuromuscular control and enhance balance, posture and position awareness, reducing fall risk.

Team 17006 created the UA Balance app, a simple iOS– and Android-compatible smartphone app that guides users through exercises, offers motivational notifications, and tracks progress to keep them engaged.

Users place red, green, yellow and blue circles onto the ground, and the app’s audio instructs them to touch their feet onto the circles in alternating patterns — almost like a solo, feet-only game of Twister. The exercises can be done either sitting or standing.

“All of us know somebody who has fallen,” said team member Cameron Fay McHugh, who has helped her own grandmother to try the program. “It was really fulfilling to work on an app that can hopefully decrease those numbers. Engineering is pointless if it cannot be used to help people and, in some way, improve their lives.”

Must-Have Medical App

MedPage Today, an online resource for health care professionals and physicians, has taken notice of the team’s work, naming it one of the “Must-Have Medical Apps” for two weeks in a row in May.

While significant research went into studying the best evidence-based dual motor-cognitive exercises, and the students needed expertise from several different areas of engineering, McHugh said the most challenging part of the project was keeping its audience in mind.

“We’re designing an app that’s used on a smartphone, and our main audience is 65 and older,” she said.

To accommodate this, the team created an extremely simple interface, with a navigation tutorial that can be accessed at any time. Users can also change everything from the app’s font size to the repetition, duration and tempo of the exercises.

Jane Mohler — professor in the UA’s College of Medicine – Tucson, associate director of the Center on Aging and the team’s technical mentor — said the team made an important contribution to the field of fall intervention by programming and testing the app.

“By collaborating with a senior engineering team, you can receive meaningful help while helping to train our future engineers in how to work productively in a team,” she said.