Published September 14, 2020
Each year, millions of people suffer from neurological impairments such as strokes. For these individuals, a crucial part of rehabilitation is to improve the use of their hands and arms.
During the past spring semester, students from UB’s Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) chapter collaborated with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ intramural program to work with Saebo, a biomedical device company, on improving the SaeboFlex glove, the current market standard for rehabilitation of the hand following neurologic damage.
Students sought to improve on the current model’s affordability and usability: The glove’s price tag can be cost-prohibitively high, and some patients have experienced discomfort when wearing it for long periods of time.
The project gave the students an opportunity to apply their technical skills to a real-life engineering problem. They began by performing initial tests and research on the existing device before tackling two primary concepts: creating an additional device to simplify how the patient puts on the SaeboFlex glove and a radical new design of the device for improved user experience.
“This interdisciplinary project not only encouraged but required outside resources to help us further understand the limitations with this medical device optimization problem,” says Donia Ahmed, a senior biomedical engineering major and one of the project leads. “We reached out to and learned from practicing physical therapists, biomedical engineering and physical therapy faculty at UB and our engineering peers. Ultimately, it was really cool to see how vibrant a project can become when you bring together perspectives from the medical field and the engineering field.”
Andrew Olewnik, director of experiential learning programs in SEAS and assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education, connected the BMES group to Saebo and provided helpful resources throughout the process. He offered a project management workshop, which formally introduced team member Lucas Lassinger, a senior biomedical engineering major, to the different phases of an engineering design project and how to build project timelines. The students were also provided access to tinkering modules via UBLearns, giving them the needed foundation in reverse engineering and CAD modeling basics.
“I really enjoyed the ability to work with my peers to implement components of the biomedical engineering curriculum that I had already learned, and also to learn new skills, such as 3D printing and CAD modeling,” says Annabella De Faria, a senior biomedical engineering major and project lead.
Due to current circumstances, the team has not yet been able to formally test its designs. Once testing is achieved, team members are hopeful that their insights can be incorporated into future Saebo product designs, impacting the user experience of the company’s thousands of customers.
“I was able to learn more about the rehabilitation side of biomedical engineering, as well as skills in Fusion 360 to bring our ideas to life,” says Cianna Currie, a junior biomedical engineering major. “Being a part of this diverse team also taught me how to think outside the box more and to challenge existing ideas.”
In addition to Ahmed, Currie, De Faria and Lassinger, the team consisted of Abby Grabowski, Jacqueline Hannon, Seth Lecuyer, Isabelle Linares and Matthew Simkulet.