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Jin Lee

First year iBioMed students tackle real world design challengesDecember 14, 2018

Designing and building a hip implant for a hospital patient is not a typical first year university project. But students in the Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBioMed) 1P10 course had the unique opportunity to tackle this real world design challenge this past semester.

On December 5, 34 groups of iBioMed students presented their hip implants at a Showcase Poster Presentation. It’s the third of five design projects for first year students in the new combined program, which was launched last year.

“When you get into the design studio it seems overwhelming because you don’t really know how you’re going to make a hip implant,” said student Kira White, who was part of a group that created an implant for a patient with osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

“Our knowledge really grew. Now we know a lot about hip implants, the materials that are currently used, and the new ones we implemented into our project.”

Students were given patient profiles created by the program’s development team. They worked with healthcare professionals and residents from Hamilton Health Sciences to diagnose the condition of the patient, using clues from the patient’s history and x-ray images. They received guidelines to be creative and think outside of the box, rather than go with the commercial ‘off-the-shelf’ implants.

All groups worked with computer-aided design and drafting software to design the implant, and they brought the designs to life using a 3D printer.

“Projects such as these really push our students to think creatively while motivating them to step outside their comfort zone," said Colin McDonald, Director of Engineering 1 and iBioMed instructor.

“By tackling these types of interdisciplinary problems that reflect the real world, our students seek out a number of sources on their own, well beyond what we provide in the classroom. The result is truly unique solutions and a more enriching learning experience.”

Since osteoporosis can cause low bone density, White’s group wanted to ensure the design would help regenerate their patient’s bone.

“We fixed our implant in a bone cement that is made of calcium and magnesium,” explains student George Song, White’s fellow group member. “In the initial stages it’s important to have stability for our patient but as the cement degrades it acts as a non-cemented implant which is more beneficial for the bone.”

Another group’s patient profile was a 19-year old male with developmental dysplasia, a dislocation of the hip that caused him to develop a limp.

“At the joint of the hip implant we have a dual mobility technology,” explains student John Milkovich. “The femoral head [of the implant] articulates within this polyethylene liner so our patient is able to increase his range in motion and it decreases the risk of dislocation. It also increases hip mobility and osteointegration.”

Milkovich’s group initially approached the design challenge by working independently and sketching four separate solutions. The final design was a summation of ideas from every project.

“The design process is not linear at all,” said Mariam Dawood, Milkovich’s fellow group member. “There’s a lot of twists and turns. You find the best solutions within those twists and turns.”