“Sorry I can’t; I have Design Team” has become my unofficial catchphrase for the semester.
Design team is one of the coolest parts of the BME program here at Hopkins. Teams identify a clinical need, find a sponsor, and work over the course of a year to develop an engineering solution to the problem. While I did design team my freshman year, I came in halfway through the project when most of the design work had already been completed. This year, however, I’ve been able to see the process from the beginning.
Over the summer, my team and I Skyped about once a week to pick a need and start laying the groundwork for our project. We began with a communal interest in the cardiovascular system and then narrowed our focus to the problem of the aorta becoming stiff.
We meet for lecture twice a week and then on one weeknight and one weekend morning to research, design, and come up with solutions to our problem.
As lowly undergrads, of course, we can’t solve this problem alone. A huge part of Design Team is meeting with clinicians, professors, and researchers to get more information about the problem and get their insight as to how to solve it.
It turns out our clinical sponsor, Dr. Weisfeldt, is the former physician-in-chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, which has helped us make several important and invaluable connections. (Plus walking down the hallway with him at the hospital feels like something out of the West Wing)
My team spends about fifteen hours per week together (sometimes more, like this past weekend when we spend twenty hours interviewing freshmen), but most of the time, our meetings don’t really feel like work. We take turns baking pumpkin bread / banana bread / muffins to bring to meeting and spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos and playing Heads Up.
So yes, DT is a huge time commitment, but being able to see our project’s potential and feeling like a Real Engineer™ makes it all worth it.