Academic journal article Journal of Entrepreneurship Education

The Medtech Innovation Course: Description and Initial Experiences with a Novel Collaborative Course Model

Academic journal article Journal of Entrepreneurship Education

The Medtech Innovation Course: Description and Initial Experiences with a Novel Collaborative Course Model

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Three key needs intersect to create a fertile environment for a new kind of design course, one that brings together clinicians, engineering students, and medtech start-up companies. First, universities teaching engineering capstone design courses strive to offer an authentic design experience that includes multidisciplinary collaboration, a real world problem, and mentorship. Prior studies have shown multidisciplinary courses to be superior in terms of job placement and an unmet desire among engineering students for exposure to entrepreneurism (Brooks et al., 2007, Hotaling et al., 2012). Second, clinicians are increasingly looking to participate in activities outside of direct patient care that include connections to industry and academia (Goldberg, 2007). Third, there is a rising tide of medtech start-up companies that critically need assistance with their design problems including access to resources such as prototyping equipment and insights from medical experts on a modest budget. The MedTech Innovation Course (MTIC) described in this paper attempts to address the aforementioned needs in an accessible, structured, and reproducible manner. In essence, a clinician partners with a start-up biotech business to work on a real-world design problem with the capstone project students (see Figure 1).

The authors describe our experience with two cycles of the MTIC at The University of Texas at Austin Department of Biomedical Engineering (UT BME) senior design program. A description of each year is provided along with a discussion of lessons learned and steps for future improvement.

COURSE DESIGN

The MTIC was structured in these initial trials as a partnership with UT BME as one of the many senior design project options for the undergraduate biomedical engineering students to choose from. Each team of students is constructed using the CATME Team Maker (http://info.catme.org). The student teams rank each project and the instructors match teams to a project within their top five choices. UT BME has a $4500 subvention fee that is paid by the sponsoring organizations and helps fund the prototyping resources provided to the students. The students assign their intellectual property (IP) on the project to the sponsor by way of a signed IP assignment agreement (students who do not want to assign their IP are given the option to work on a non-sponsored project by the instructor of the course).

The timeframe of the design course is determined by The University and conforms to the academic calendar, spanning the 8 months from October to May. An example timeline for the UT BME program is given below.

UT BME Senior Design Course Timeline

September 30: Deadline to submit Statements of Work.

October 17: Teams choose from the list of projects and start working with sponsors on the project. Nondisclosure agreements are signed and the subvention fee is invoiced.

December 5: Teams submit a written proposal of their design solution to sponsors and receive feedback over the winter break between semesters.

January 17: Teams return to campus to begin prototyping and testing. Regular progress reports are provided to sponsors and periodic design reviews will be given to the course instructors through the spring semester during this process.

April 24-27: Teams give a final, formal presentation of their finished design, prototype, and testing results to sponsors and the instructors.

May 12: Students present final written design report, design notebooks, the prototype and any usable project materials to their sponsoring organization.

An example of how the MTIC schedule fits within the academic year is shown in Table 1. The authors will describe the modifications made for each course to give an idea of possible permutations.

INITIAL EXPERIENCES

The authors describe the first two iterations of the MTIC detailing distinguishing aspects and lessons learned. The clinician and university stayed the same for both courses while the industry co-sponsor and student team differed. …

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