Biomed bike wins national competition
his is no ordinary Schwinn. Designed by four recent biomedical engineering graduates as part of a senior design class, this bike/medical device features Braille, audio prompts, visual cues, special seating, and other modifications. For its potential to assist people with a variety of conditions, including stroke, Parkinson's, blindness, obesity, and deafness, the cycle recently won the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center's Accessible Medical Instrumentation Competition.
Conceptualized and constructed by Amy Chi-Yun Huang '05, Megan Damcott '05, Ling Dong '05, and Laura Katzenberger '04, the device has proven to be such an ingenious creation that the Brain Injury Unit at St. Mary's Hospital has expressed interest in obtaining and using the cycle for its patients undergoing physical therapy.
"We're especially proud of this year's students," says Amy Lerner, associate professor of biomedical engineering and instructor of the biomedical design course. "Nineteen teams from 16 universities around the country designed devices for this competition, and we won first place the first year we entered."
The team, known as VersaErg Innovations, actually began the project working with an ordinary Schwinn recumbent exercise cycle, first replacing its seat with one that swivels, allowing someone with limited mobility to sit down from a standing position beside the cycle, then easily swivel into a comfortable seated position. The new seat is larger, as well, to accommodate people weighing up to 300 pounds.
Other modifications include removing the cross bar connecting the seat pedestal to the cycle so that a user could swivel into position without having to lift either leg, and designing the bike so that once seated, the patient moves the cycle, not the seat, into position. The pedals and display easily glide toward and away from the patient and lock in place, making it unnecessary for the patient to move, but also allowing a therapist to move the cycle out of the way should assistance be needed.
To accommodate people with vision and hearing difficulties, the students installed a large magnifying glass that can be slid over any part of the display to enlarge it. They painted all the edges of the machine with highly contrasting colors, and even enlisted the help of the National Braille Association in creating Braille stickers to identify buttons and controls. Voice-recording circuitry also recites the name of whatever button or function has been activated for those visually impaired patients who cannot read Braille.
The project was developed as part of the biomedical engineering program's Senior Design Sequence, which is a course required of all biomedical engineering undergraduates. The course has garnered national praise, most notably from the Whitaker Foundation and the Biomedical Engineering Society, for its distinctive customer-driven approach to design.
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