I know people who are approaching BIOE 451/452 with the goal of walking out of the Sallyport with a degree in one hand and a patent application in the other. They are, however, vastly outnumbered by those who a) want to attend medical school/some other grad program, b) don’t care enough/wont’t create something good/will burn out or c) don’t know how money/patents work (I go here, and that’s hopefully). But a lot of the projects I’ve seen in previous years are good, and the global health projects in particular have a lot of potential for use at very low development costs (there is NO source of free labor like a graduating senior who wants an A in their capstone course). Here’s the thought process:
– Many engineering schools around the world feature degree programs culminating in design projects, in which the final product is a functional, marketable device.
– Many of these projects focus on global health; for example, bioengineering students at Rice have constructed low-cost automated syringe pumps appropriate for clinics lacking in staff, and cell phone cameras adapters for diagnosis of neonatal jaundice.
– Many students who spend their senior year working on such projects abandon them.
And here are some potential fixes:
– Financial support for students who want to make their class things into real things. USAID is trying to start making small-level grants workable, but it’s not there yet, and a student initiative of this sort would be the perfect place for them to begin.
– DESIGN PROJECT DATABASE. This would allow students from different universities interested in continuing work to interact with one another, rather than the pre-med they got paired with. This year alone I know Rice, Columbia, and Northwestern all had projects developing low-cost autoclaves: a PERFECT scenario where something like this could be useful for both exchange of ideas and potential future investment. A project like this would have to be university-led, as in design teams would need to be urged by a professor to actually submit occasional project updates throughout the year (which wouldn’t be hard for anyone doing regular documentation) (potential lead rice envision grant project, hmmmmmmaybe).