Every February, the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering, the premier biomedical engineering student organization on campus, hosts an undergraduate medical device design competition called the Makeathon. 12 to 15 teams of four or five students have 30 hours to brainstorm, 3D model, and prototype a device that solves a real-world health challenge. In the past, the challenge has been proposed by prominent institutions such as NASA, the Brain-Body Dynamics Research lab, and Enabling the Future. At the end of the competition, students have the opportunity to pitch their design to a panel of judges comprised of professors, representatives from industry, and clinical experts.
I competed in the Makeathon my freshman and sophomore years, and they were some of my most memorable experiences in college. The event reminded me of why I was a biomedical engineering major: to innovate solutions that can help patients recover from disease or injury more quickly and return to their normal daily activities. This year, I was part of the planning committee for the event. It was definitely a different perspective, as I was now the one working with clinicians and researchers to come up with the design challenge.
The challenge we proposed this year was to develop a rehabilitation device that promotes and enhances physical therapy activity in non-clinical settings for survivors of stroke who exhibit wrist and/or hand impairments. I was amazed by the participants’ ideas and prototypes! Some teams created a gamified device that leads patients through the motions of everyday tasks like holding a pencil or opening a door. Others paired a glove that could detect discrete movements of the hand with a card or board game.
If you ever get an opportunity to participate in a Makeathon or Hackathon, you should do it! It’s a great way to put your technical, problem-solving, and presentation skills to the test as well as gain experience working on a team. Or if you have doubts about what you can do as an engineer, the Makeathon will elucidate the endless possibilities!