The Senior Design Project course of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University facilitates the formation of ventures involving senior undergraduate GA Tech BME student capstone project teams and qualified faculty mentors to develop a medical product. By volunteering to mentor a team, an Emory 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.
Over the semester, Dr. Martin Steed, associate professor of surgery and residency program director of the division of oral and maxillofacial surgery, mentored a four-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 surgical instrument for the safe exposure of the inferior alveolar nerve.
"Instrumentation and repair of nerves within bone requires the same principles found in all of surgery: obtaining access and providing continuous visualization," says Dr. Steed. "The students were able to incorporate novel design elements that would not only enable atraumatic lateralization of the nerve, but a self irrigating element that keeps the field clear."
Competing against 74 other teams of GA Tech students, Dr. Steed's team presented their prototype at the Senior Biodesign Capstone Project Competition on December 6th, 2012, and won 1st place, receiving a cash prize of $1000. The team consisted of Charlie Bloodworth, Binbin Chen, Freddy Damen, and Lu Ling. The team was also awarded entry into the annual InVenture Prize @ Georgia Tech, a faculty-led competition that features a first-place package of $20,000, a free US patent filing by Georgia Tech’s Office of Technology and Licensing, and other prizes.
The team plans to continue working together, and will further refine the device before creating a prototype that can be tested clinically.