Georgia CTSA-Supported Project Wins Top BME Award at Capstone Design Expo

student designers
Spring 2021 Capstone Design Expo BME Winner: Team Milk Maids

In the 2021 Spring Semester’s virtual version of the Capstone Design Expo at Georgia Tech, more than 180 teams showcased their work. Georgia CTSA sponsored 150 students on 30 teams at the spring Expo, including the winning Georgia Tech Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) team, Milk Maids. The Capstone Design Expo featured a vast range of innovative products created by student design teams who have worked together in a series of Capstone Design courses, specifically focused on offering students real-world, open-ended, interdisciplinary challenges proposed by project sponsors.

Georgia CTSA’s strong support of the Capstone Design program stems from the CTSA’s mission to help move more innovations to more patients more quickly. This translational process involves developing awareness and skills in many areas not traditionally taught in an academic environment. To help fill these gaps, the CTSA offers and supports a wide range of services, courses, and events to expand current and future investigators’ understanding of innovation, entrepreneurship, and what it takes to commercialize their ideas.

The Capstone Design program is a leading example of such a curriculum. Students work in teams to design, build and test prototypes of a solution to a real-world issue in the biomedical field. Part of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech, the Capstone Program is supported by Georgia CTSA and administered by Georgia Tech. The Capstone Design coursework allows students to learn and apply the engineering design process: defining functional requirements, conceptualization, analysis, identifying risks and countermeasures, selection, and physical prototyping.

Teams were assisted in their work by research sponsors and had access to clinical expertise for professional direction, including physicians, nurses, academic researchers, and biomedical industry members. Of this spring’s 30 teams supported by Georgia CTSA, one team was the BME winner, and seven teams have submitted invention disclosures with the Emory Office of Technology Transfer for determination of provisional patent application filing.

Milk Maids, the Capstone Design Expo winning BME team, identified a current lack of quantifiable tools to aid clinicians in infant breastfeeding treatment. The team designed and created an innovative, hand-held, baby-bottle shaped screening device that utilizes a vacuum pressure sensor to output real-time quantitative data of an infant’s ability to breastfeed. The team’s work benefited from collaboration with clinicians at Emory Healthcare, including their sponsor, Dr. Alex Dabrowiecki, Radiology Resident at Emory University, and physicians from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Capstone Design teams were also recognized at the Georgia CTSA Southeast Regional Clinical and Translational Science Conference, where several teams presented their design innovations. This was the first time Capstone teams have presented their solutions at the conference as part of the poster sessions or podium talks. One team gave an oral presentation on the topic of ‘Rapid Plasma Viscosity Testing for COVID-19 Patients’, and three additional Capstone teams presented during the virtual poster sessions.

“We are thankful for Georgia CTSA’s continued financial support enabling us to substantially enhance clinically-oriented senior design experiences for our students as we train the next generation of leaders in medical technology innovation. The many accomplishments of these teams within and outside the classroom would not be possible without Georgia CTSA’s support!” says Kyle Cowdrick, New Partnerships Liaison, Georgia Tech BME Capstone Design.

The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, MSM, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.