Twice a year at the BioInnovation Academy in Akron Ohio teens are invited to solve existing medical challenges using CAD programs and 3D printers. The five day academy begins with a simulated cardiac arrest. Teams of students work with existing technology to attempt to resuscitate the patient. Afterwards, they discuss the pros and cons of the available technology and brainstorm new ways to respond to critical situations.
Sixteen year old Robert Wagner of Copley High School was one of the students attending the Institute this summer. He worked with students Andi Wang and Grant Zempolich to design and prototype a new portable CPR mask that can be adjusted to fit small children as well as adults. They designed their mask prototype in a CAD program and built it using the institute's 3D printers. The device, which operates much like an umbrella does, could be marketed to health care professionals or anyone who has completed CPR training. "People would be more likely to give mouth-to-mouth if they had a mask such as this, possibly saving lives," Wagner said.
The BioInnovation Institute was launched five years ago to encourage children in the Akron area to pursue biomedical careers. "You engage them by finding exciting, hands-on experiences," said Vivek Narayan, a program manager with the BioInnovation Institute.
Students attending the academy can choose one of two study tracks to focus their efforts on. The first is a community health program which teaches them to identify and respond to local health issues. The second avenue of study takes a hard look at some medical devices already in use and challenges the students to find ways to improve them. It was the second path that Wagner excelled in and he plans to continue studying biomedical engineering. "I want to help people live better lives," Wagner said.
The Institute offers two summer sessions for teens entering grades 10 through 12 in the fall. The sessions run eight hours a day for five days and cost $750. Scholarships are available. If you live in the Akron area and would like more information on the program you can visit them online.
3D printing is fast gaining traction with students around the world. The City X Project works with children as young as eight years old, teaching them to use CAD and 3D printers. Great Britain recently announced they plan to add 3D printing into their curriculum this year and the American Museum of Natural history is helping kids make 3D prints from dinosaur fossils.