Even before they leave the Purdue University campus, students of the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering are impacting the world around them.
Continuing a Senior-class tradition, students delivered “Weldon Wagons” to the pediatrics unit of ParkviewHospital in nearby Fort Wayne, Indiana, in May 2008. The wagons, assembled and decorated by the graduating class, are intended to provide an element of fun for children in their experience of the patient environment. This tradition was begun by the inaugural class of WeldonSchool as a way to give back to the state and local community that had provided them so much. "The intent of having the students construct the Weldon Wagons is to remind them that they are graduating with more than just a degree in biomedical engineering," said George Wodicka, Head of the WeldonSchool. "Through their degree, they have acquired the skills to create or assist in the creation of medical technologies to help heal people and enable them to live better lives.”
Undergraduates in the WeldonSchool are taking advantage of many additional opportunities to improve their world outside the classroom. The School currently hosts three EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) teams which have partnerships with medical institutions in the state. From their first semester at Purdue, BME students begin to apply their technical knowledge and emerging design skills to solving real problems. So far, the students have provided “toys” with specialized instrumentation for physical therapists to use to measure the muscle strength and reaction time of pediatric patients, designed a safe transportation carrier for infant respirator systems, and created a customizable computer screen interface that allows children with limited movement ability and speech problems to communicate. The newest EPICS team in the WeldonSchool is designing interactive scale models to educate middle and high school students about bio-inspired nano-manufacturing concepts.
Weldon students are taking their creative design skills outside the state of Indiana. One team of students, led by faculty member Jenna Rickus, placed highly in the MIT-sponsored International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition. Each year approximately 400 students from top universities demonstrate their design skills in synthetic biology during the event. Weldon students participate as leaders and international interns in the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) program as well as a wide-range of study abroad exchange programs. They also run a chapter of Engineering World Health, participate in medical missions, and in the past year more than a dozen traveled to national and international conferences to present research results. These innovative endeavors by Weldon undergraduate students are not surprising given the culture of interdisciplinary design, innovation, and entrepreneurship in which they are immersed.