Student Portfolio: project lab

In the summer of 2015, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Timothy Wick approached me with a collaboration idea for a team-based learning project called Project Lab, where students work in interdisciplinary teams to develop and deliver functional devices based on specific client needs. The teams are made up of students from UAB Bio-Engineering, Business, and the Department of Art & Art History. Innovation frequently arises from interdisciplinary collaboration when knowledge and information is applied in novel ways to understand and solve important problems. By improving or inventing a device that provides a user with enhanced ability to meet a goal or complete an important occupational or daily living task, a student obtains gratification that their discipline is relevant to societal development.

The overall goal of Project Lab is to provide undergraduate students with hands-on opportunities to successfully design, fabricate and validate devices to enhance healthcare professional training and increase the ability for persons with disabilities. Devices ranged from a Capillary Refill Time Trainer and a Seizure Simulator for Children’s of Alabama Pediatric Simulation Center, a Central Venous Line Trainer for UAB Office of Inter-professional Simulation, and a Demonstration Mannequin to display sound output from personal stereo devices for UAB’s Deep South Network for Occupational Health and Safety.

By mentoring teams of students with complementary expertise from different disciplines, incorporating guest lectures and team building exercises, and engaging experts from UAB as well as the community, the involved students were able to produce successful prototypes that meets the clients’ specifications. Depending on the client, the students worked in a variety of methods such as mold-making, anatomical casting, 3D printing, metal fabrication and casting, computer coding, photographic and instructive documentation, and product conservation. The project team for each device was expected to establish the appropriate engineering design and validation criteria, fabricate prototypes and ultimately the final device and develop user information manuals for the client and engineering design files as appropriate for the product. Students interested in participating were interviewed to evaluate their experience working in teams, their problem-solving abilities and their critical thinking skills as well as to set expectations for participation in Project Lab. The students involved were in various levels in their curriculum, yet all demonstrated some aptitude for product design and development.