How a Northwestern course gets engineering students to think medically: BTN LiveBIG
A wristwatch that motivates you to stay physically fit by turning exercise into a game of chance.
An array of household sensors that monitors daily activity, sensing problematic eating patterns and alerting the user.
A monitor that tracks parent’s daily play time with their children.
These novel inventions – and nine others – are products of a new, multi-disciplinary Northwestern University course pairing students in the school’s McCormick School of Engineering with Feinberg School of Medicine physicians to create a host of new medical technologies.
“Our goal was to innovate technology that is ready to go for the medical field,” says professor Nabil Alshurafa, speaking to Northwestern Now. “More importantly, we want to develop engineers who are able to communicate with faculty in medicine. A lot of times, they speak two different languages, so I thought, ‘how do we prepare our future engineers to collaborate with medical researchers?’”
Over the semester, students were tasked with creating a device or system, designing a study exploring the need and viability of their design, and working with existing or new technologies to bring it all to fruition.
To cap the course off, the 12 student teams presented their designs in what Alshurafa called a “mHealth Showdown.”
As director of the HABits (Health Aware Bits) Lab, Alshurafa is well-versed in bridging the worlds of engineering and healthcare. His own research focuses on the design and construction of mHealth (mobile health) systems that integrate mobile devices into the field of preventative medicine.
While the course is still in its infancy, having only been offered twice now, its success has earned it a spot on the regular curriculum.