Science & Technology

MIT student artistic approach to designing medical devices

Senior Jessica Shoe, who is studying mechanical engineering, combined her passion for art and engineering through her research on medical devices. Credit: John Freidah

All are canvases for senior Jessica Xu. Prolific artist Xu has researched a variety of media, including pens and inks, colored pencils, and watercolors.In her time MIT, She expanded her horizons beyond traditional media and turned the campus location into a work of art.

As a freshman, Xu painted a mural in the tunnel below the MIT campus through the Borderline Tunnel Project. She then worked with UA Innovation to transform the “Banana Lounge” with student mural art. During this year’s independent activities, she co-led a virtual “Chalk of the Day Workshop” to provide students with artistic outlets during quarantine.

In addition to turning everyday space into art, Xu draws inspiration from everyday space for his engineering work. Xu was inspired by the traffic light design when considering a redesign of TILT, a wheelchair attachment that allows users to navigate areas that are not accessible by wheelchairs.

“That’s the artistic side. I’m always looking around, finding connections and getting inspiration from almost anywhere,” says Xu.

Today's chalk workshop

Prolific artist Xu co-led a virtual “Chalk of the Day Workshop” during MIT’s independent activities, providing students with artistic outlets during quarantine. Credit: Jessica Xu

Upon coming to MIT, Xu was keen to focus on topics related to health and medical device design. She was particularly attracted to developing solutions for people to live more independently. When deciding which major to declare, she found a mechanical engineering home.

“We especially started mechanical engineering because we realized that we were more enthusiastic about developing solutions in close collaboration with end users,” she says. “Because of my background as an artist, I tend to think physically or spatially, and mechanical engineering is suitable.”

Xu enrolled in the Flexible Mechanical Engineering Course 2A program, focusing on medical equipment and focusing on the humanities, arts and social sciences in the history of architecture, arts and design. To focus on 2A, she proposed a list of classes exploring a variety of medical technologies, from human enhancement to assistive technology to medical implant design.

“I really like the flexibility of Course 2A, so I can focus on mechanical engineering while also diving into some of the other interests that aren’t regularly covered in core engineering classes,” Xu said. say.

Jessica Xu Smita Bhattacharjee

Jessica Xu and Senior Mechanical Engineering Smita Bhattacharjee (right) picked up an early prototype of the TILT Wheelchair Attachment at the MITLegatum Center Travel Grant Presentations in the fall of 2019. Credit: TILT

In the fall of the second year, Xu joined MIT’s Institute for Therapeutic Technology Design and Development as a research assistant. Under the guidance of Ellen Roche, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and WM Keck Career Development professor of biomedical engineering, Xu designed a minimally invasive delivery system for patches that could be placed in the beating heart to deliver drugs. Assisted. Recently, he helped design a delivery tool for an implantable ventilator that actively moves a person’s diaphragm.

“Jessica is a systematic, creative, talented engineer and excellent communicator. She is absolutely delighted to work together on these two projects. Her on the engineering design process. A mature understanding has strengthened the devices our team has been working on, “Roche adds.

In the same semester when she started working with Roche on a therapeutic device, Xu joined Smita Bhattacharjee, a fellow mechanical engineering student working on TILT, which began in class EC.720 (D-Lab: Design). The project hopes to address the lack of accessibility of wheelchairs in developing regions, especially India.

“It’s not just a technical issue, it’s a big social issue. Wheelchair users in these areas can easily leave home, get an education, go to work, or just interact with the community. Often we can’t, “says Xu.

TILT provides a solution to the lack of accessibility in wheelchairs. A ski-like object is attached to the wheelchair, making it easy for wheelchair users to help up and down stairs. This simple design makes TILT easy to use, especially in resource-constrained areas, compared to more expensive solutions such as robotic stair climbing wheelchairs.

“This initiative began when MIT and Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) students encouraged and collaborated with one of the D-Lab Design instructors,” added Sorin Grama, a lecturer at MIT D-Lab. I will. “This was a great example of international cooperation to understand and resolve the pressing needs of emerging markets, which is D-Lab’s core belief.”

Inspired by the way traffic lights are hung, Xu has significantly redesigned TILT’s attachment mechanism. As the design was optimized, another mechanical engineering student, Nisal Ovitagala, joined the pair and they began looking for ways to optimally launch large-scale manufacturing and develop business models. They sought support and funding from programs such as the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program and MIT’s Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship to improve their entrepreneurial skills.

This support was rewarded when the TILT team was awarded a $ 10,000 reviewed grant at the IDEAS Social Innovation Challenge in May 2020.

Bhattacharjee, Xu, and Ovitagala continue to work on TILT throughout their fourth year. More recently, I’ve been working on more physical prototyping and design ideas with the user experience in mind. They want to start field testing with Indian wheelchair users once the trip is safe.

Xu has also explored his passion for democratizing healthcare innovation through his involvement in MIT Hacking Medicine. Most recently, he was co-leader of the Building for Digital Health 2021 event, featuring the TechTalk series and hackathons in partnership with Google Cloud.

Xu sees similarities between her work on medical devices, including TILT, and how she sees art.

“When you look at art, you see ideas drawn through the lenses of artists, backers, and culture in general. We always have to ask, consciously or unknowingly, what is left behind and who is left behind. Yes. What can’t you see? “Xu says. “It’s the same with engineering, especially projects like medical devices and TILT. When tackling the problems of people I’ve never actually experienced, I always have to ask: What assumptions do I have? What kind of blind spot do you have? What can’t you see? “

After graduating this spring, Xu will earn a master’s degree based on his work at MIT in preparing for a career in the medical device industry. Whatever the future, she plans to combine her two passions of engineering and art to solve problems that improve the lives of others.

MIT student artistic approach to designing medical devices MIT student artistic approach to designing medical devices

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