Dean's Award latest accolade for Fairfield University engineering students' bone mineral density monitor


Image: Deans Award studentsAn electric powered greens spinner for small farms, a vacuum pump to retrieve golf balls out of golf course ponds, and a high-speed production track for automated manufacturing were just some of the impressive capstone projects that Fairfield University School of Engineering seniors created this year as part of the important Senior Design course.

The 2014 Dean's Award - for the design project that stood above all the others - was given to four students who developed a medical device that will alert people to problematic bone mineral density loss, a condition effecting many older adults (and even astronauts) that can lead to fractures and loss of mobility.

Mechanical Engineering major Stephanie Sutherby, of Ipswich, Massachusetts; and Electrical Engineering majors Robert Garrone, of the Town of Islip, New York; Michael Raymond, of Amityville, New York; and Joseph Musubire developed a plan for the wearable, non-invasive, and compact 'BoneSmart: Infrared Bone Mineral Density and Blood Flow Monitor.'

The device can be crucial. Everyone loses some bone mass as they age because bones naturally become thinner. A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures how much calcium and other vital minerals are in bones, and knowing that data can help health care providers detect if someone is at risk for bone fractures. In effect, the Fairfield students' device uses infrared light wavelengths to provide key data so that people will know whether they need to take precautionary steps to increase their bone strength by, for example, taking vitamin supplements or by doing weight-bearing exercises.

Because it is portable and unlike heavy machines that measure bone density, it can also be a helpful device for astronauts living for extended periods in a weightless condition, a situation that causes bone density loss.

"It has the potential capability of transmitting data [wirelessly] to an Excel spreadsheet, an email or some other form of media," said Garrone. "We hope to market it toward osteoporosis patients as an alternative to hospital visits with specialists."

The students developed 'BoneSmart' in response to a challenge posed each fall to all seniors in the Senior Design course. Students are asked to create products or processes that are very much needed in the marketplace but have not been invented yet, such as tools or vehicles.

"The BoneSmart team worked diligently from the beginning," said Shahrokh Etemad, Ph.D., chairman and associate professor of mechanical engineering, who served as Senior Design project instructor. "They had a good long-term vision of executing their project and launching it for commercial application. They provided and won a successful proposal to Connecticut NASA Space grant for funding and also participated and won funding from different Fairfield University Business Plan Competition workshops offered by the Dolan School of Business."

The team presented their results at American Society of Engineering Education and Sigma Xi poster presentations. "They successfully managed to deliver a working prototype," added Dr. Etemad. "This team was a good role model for future Senior Design Projects."

In addition, the students were also part of the 'BoneSmart' team that recently received $5,000 when they won the 'social track' of the University's Business Plan Competition, and that sum followed $1,000 Garrone won competing in the competition's Startup Day. Dolan School students Ralph Belfiore and Bernardo Navarro rounded out that team.

Ryan Munden, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical engineering, was the students' mentor along with Rafique Vahora. Vahora. Eamonn Grant, and Daniel Liashek who graduated last year initiated the project and received the 2013 Dean's Award. E. Vagos Hadjimichael, Ph.D., professor of Physics and Engineering, mentored them.

Other projects in contention this year for the Dean's Award were 'Robot Assisted Ribbon Bending,' 'Fabrication and Testing of Miniature Wireless Powering Device,' and "Development of Advanced Carbon Fiber Impact Absorption Structure for Formula F Race Car.' For more information about the School of Engineering, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/soe/.

 

Image: (L-R) - Four Fairfield University School of Engineering students won the school's annual Dean's Award for developing a bone mineral density monitor prototype. Stephanie Sutherby, of Ipswich, Massachusetts; Robert Garrone, of the Town of Islip, New York; and Michael Raymond, of Amityville, New York.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 15, 2014

Vol. 46, No. 298