Enhancing Patient Mobility: Collaborations Between Undergraduate Engineering Teams and Medical Providers

by Jacqueline Lee

Coauthors: Christine King, PhD

Medical Devices & Digital Health

Senior undergraduate engineering projects provide opportunities to develop effective, low-cost prototypes for pediatric needs. Hospitalized children are often dependent on intravenous (IV) fluids, which may limit their mobility. Increasing mobility can enhance recovery by encouraging physical therapy and reducing delirium. During the 2021-2022 academic year, we began a collaboration between a physician, nurses at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), and the BioEngine senior design program at the University of California Irvine (UCI). We developed a specialized backpack to deliver IV fluids to hospitalized pediatric patients. In the 2022-2023 academic year, a new student team performed an additional needs assessment and are currently building a new prototype, IV Bot. This robotic IV pole has the potential to not only serve pediatric patients, but could also be developed for the adult population.

In these projects, groups of five to six students were responsible for product design, applying for funding, devising a project build schedule, and constructing and testing a prototype. An engineering mentor and physician mentor met several times per month with the student team to evaluate their progress and provide guidance. Nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and physician assistants participated in consumer surveys to guide product requirements and provided valuable feedback on designs.

Collaborative efforts between medical providers and undergraduate engineering teams in senior capstone projects can facilitate the production of pediatric device prototypes. The cyclical nature of an academic year allows for the opportunity to reassess initial designs and improve upon existing prototypes, or explore new design possibilities altogether. These partnerships improve the medical team’s understanding of technology development, and enables them to influence product design. These partnerships also help young engineers create more patient-centered devices and encourage them to consider pediatric needs in their future careers.