By Holly Ober

The UC Davis Biomedical Engineering Student Association (BESA) held a Biomedical Engineering Design Challenge for community college students interested in biomedical engineering, UC Davis, and design on Saturday, March 25, 2017.

A total of 24 students participated from community colleges around the area including Sacramento City College, Woodland Community College, American River College, Cosumnes River College and one student who drove all the way from Mendocino Community College. Tony Passerini kicked off the event with an introduction to the field of biomedical engineering, followed by a demonstration of some past Senior Design projects. Everyone enjoyed playing with the 3D printed parts that were passed around during his talk, leading to a lively question and answer session.

Next, students were divided into 5 groups. Each group had a graduate student team leader, who was responsible for guiding the students through the design challenge. Students were provided with background materials, limitations, and an arm sling. They had to redesign the arm sling with the materials provided in 2 hours.

After the design challenge, students toured the Athanasiou, Yamada, and Srinivasan labs.  Every lab gave a short demonstration of its particular research. Lunch followed the tours, and gave a staff member from the admissions office an opportunity to discuss how to transfer to UC Davis.

Finally, each group presented their designs and winners were chosen. The event concluded with an address from Soichiro Yamada, whose NSF grant funded the event.

Erin Han, a first place winner with BA in psychology, who is taking science classes at Sacramento City College to pursue a nursing career, said she didn’t know what to expect at first.

“I came in with absolutely zero engineering background, but that didn’t stop me from attending. I am working on applying to nursing school and this was a great introduction to the medical innovations of today and the future. I feel that it ties really well with my studies, and I even learned how think like an engineer!”

Marciena Maxey, another first place winner and engineering major at Woodland Community College, has been on the fence between mechanical and electrical engineering for a while.

“My MESA program always has flyers for events and things happening nearby to try exposing you to people along the same educational path. I never considered biomedical engineering as a possible option because I don’t really like the science aspect of engineering. It was the most fun I’ve had participating at a UC Davis event, and it helped me realize how creativity can be a serious advantage in this field, and how sometimes, it’s even essential.”

The activities and instructors resonated strongly with her.

“It also alleviated some fears I had about not being able to enjoy when I’ll undoubtedly need to take science classes at Davis. The teachers are intuitive, passionate, and pretty down to earth. If I had the choice, I’d want to learn from someone I can really see myself become, and the stigma of ‘stiff, brainy, boring’ engineer was definitely a trap I did not fall in, and I’m glad neither did the teachers. I really feel like UC Davis is a place I can push myself while still being myself.”

Each participant left with a 3D printed coffin cube puzzle souvenir, printed in one of the EFL facilities on campus.

BESA outreach chairs Divya Kernik, Allison Hsia, and Anita Rajamani organized the event, with input from professors Anthony Passerini, Soichiro Yamada, and Jennifer Choi. Team leaders were Jarrett Link, Jennifer Price, Erik Hammes, Sam Tucci, and Trey Simpson. (Photo credits: Srinu Tapa)