Dr. Puskas and Coulter BME Student Team Collaborate on Device Design

December 2011

The Senior Design Project course of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University offers unique and stellar opportunities for educator-and-student collaboration and synergy. The program facilitates the formation of ventures involving senior undergraduate GA Tech BME student capstone project teams of four-to-eight members and qualified instructors or outside advisors to develop a medical product. By volunteering to mentor a team, any Department of Surgery faculty member with a viable concept for an innovative device can lead a team dedicated to overcoming the engineering hurdles inherent to creating any prototype, possibly resulting in a marketable product.

For two semesters, Dr. John Puskas, director and founder of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Clinical Research Unit, mentored an eight-member BME student team as they applied their knowledge of the phases of design research, generation of engineering alternatives, prototyping and testing, and the FDA 510(k) regulatory pathway for medical device clearance to design a prototype of a sternal retractor that Dr. Puskas had originated.

"Not only was it a learning and discovery process for all of us, it was a heck of a lot of fun," says Dr. Puskas. "They visited both the lab and the OR at EUH-Midtown at least a dozen times, discussing the concept with me and observing cardiac surgery procedures. As time progressed they became more confident and their solutions to problems became more concrete."

Competing against 40 other teams of GA Tech students, Dr. Puskas' team presented their prototype at the Senior Biodesign Capstone Project Competition on December 9 and won second place, receiving a cash prize. The team consisted of Josh DeVane, Benji Hoover, Eric Kopfle, Matthew Lee, Daniel Pak, Kevin Parsons, Priya Patil, and Poornima Venkataraman.

"Our next step will be to refine the retractor design through iterative changes in plastic prototypes and then to create a stainless steel prototype that can be tested clinically," says Dr. Puskas. "The BME students and GA Tech's prototyping facilities provide that capability as well."

Faculty interested in investigating this opportunity can find more details here.