Cleveland High School’s Erin Hattabaugh continually laid down the gauntlet for her bio-medical engineering students this past semester and they rose to the occasion every time.
The students have so far been challenged to create orthopedic implants, a heart pump, functional prosthetics and machines for robotic surgery.
Hattabaugh described the various projects as “so valuable to problem-solving and critical thinking.”
The project on functional prosthetics funded through a mini-grant awarded by the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation challenged both health science and engineering students alike.
Groups were comprised of two to three students. The project timeline gave each group three weeks to brainstorm, design, create, re-create and complete the tasks. Objectives for every group included pouring water into a cup, picking up the cup and drinking from the cup; picking up a ball, throwing a ball and catching a ball.
Engineering students Dallas Elrod and Nathanael Jarrell felt confident of their creation early on in its development.
“Our design has a metal, handheld device that goes over your hand,” Elrod said. “We have a CPU and an antenna that will be inside of it also with a motor. And we will have a control set up where you can use the other hand to move it.”
Added Elrod, “The hard part of putting stuff together was having to cut pieces and stuff like that.”
Partners Chloey Tatum and Destiny Hetiback both hail from the health sciences track at the high school.
Tatum said she was initially nervous about being placed in the bio-medical engineering course.
“I’ve never taken a single engineering class before this class, and I was placed in this class by accident,” Tatum said. “It has been surprisingly easy for me. It has a good deal of health science involved and there is no real extensive math we have been using.”
Hetiback and Tatum went through several prototypes before settling on the best design for their project.
According to Tatum, the initial plan was to place expanding foam inside of a glove. The top layer was cut off to reveal a misshapen mess. The next glove was not flexible enough to fulfill the objectives of the project.
“[We’ve] moved on to cotton, which is turning out pretty well for us,” Tatum said. “We took the sterile glove and filled it with cotton.”
Bio-medical engineering provides a platform for both engineering and health science students to work side-by-side. The two tracks offered at Cleveland High School do not normally interact. Hattabaugh said the students work well together.
“I have some of my anatomy students in here that have never taken any engineering classes and [the anatomy students] say, ‘Well that doesn’t make sense,’ but it does,” Hattabaugh said. “When we start to make the heart pumps they know all of the medicine and anatomy behind it. They are always in a design team [together], so at any given moment, one group of people think they are smarter than the other.”
Health science student T.J. Parker and engineering student Isaiah Beaty successfully united the two tracks to design their functional prosthetic.
“Every project we’ve had we’ve gone big,” Beaty said. “To me, it is kind of like I want to do the best. We make a good team.”
Added Parker, “[Isaiah] has more of an engineering background and I have more of a health and anatomy background. We can bring it together to make it work.”
He explained his part of the project was to work on the straps, because he knows the way the body works.
Continued Parker, “So he has the engineering with the intricate designs and everything, and I know how to make the body work with the prosthetics.”
The two researched their prosthetics online before laying out a design. They noticed a majority of the pieces were a two-prong system. Both decided to take their project to the next level by using a four-prong design.
Beaty said the initial idea was to use electrodes connected to the muscles in the arm. He explained the muscles tensing would control how the prosthetic would react. However, the equipment proved too expensive to purchase.
Parker explained how the pieces would manually operate together.
“I am working on the cup for the elbow and working on the straps to make it all work. [Isaiah] is working on the hand itself and I am getting the cup the prosthetic arm would go in,” Parker said. “When you extend your arm it would pull the straps and open the hand, and when you put it back it would close.”
Hattabaugh said the seven group projects were “great.” Two of the groups, including Parker and Beaty, used 3D printing in their designs. The others were more mechanical.
She expressed her appreciation for the money provided by the BCPEF.
Students had just enough time to celebrate their success before moving on to the final project of the year: removing a grape “tumor” from a block of jello using robotic surgery.
Preliminary reports suggest the students are once again rising to the challenge set forth by Hattabaugh.