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Stronger together: Parkview, Trine partnership moves product ideas forward

ParkviewJust as Star Trek’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy often quipped that he was a doctor and not a (insert profession), the medical professionals at Parkview Health know their limitations when it comes to product design.

“Our employees often have ideas for products that will solve problems or increase efficiency, but they don’t usually have the time or expertise to develop the product on their own,” said Charlotte Gabet, Parkview’s Innovation and Simulation Lab director.

However, just as the starship Enterprise crew could turn to ever-dependable engineer Montgomery Scott in a crisis, Parkview has a cadre of student engineers at Trine University to assist with carrying ideas on to fruition.

“Trine brings the time and capabilities to projects that our team doesn’t have,” Gabet said. “Trine students are trained in engineering, plus they have much more time and capacity to devote to the projects. Trine also has more production equipment and testing devices available for the students than is currently available in our lab.

“We can turn the ideas over to Trine students who, in turn, present us with fully functional prototypes.”

Projects focus on professionals’ safety

This past year, Trine student engineers completed two projects for Parkview, both with the goal of enhancing safety for the organization’s medical professionals.

Trine biomedical engineering majors Austin Shepard, Alex Bond and Nathan Shewmaker created an invention to facilitate full-body repositioning in the hospital setting. The team of design engineering technology majors Brandon Bruman, Dylan Dowling and Noah Meeker developed an affordable, comfortable 3D-printed respirator mask with a reusable filter that provides the same protection as an N-95 mask.

“Any time Trine students can connect with local businesses or organizations, it’s a win-win for all involved,” said Jason Blume, executive director of Trine innovation 1, which works to connect local businesses and organizations with Trine University resources. “The local group gets the assistance and expertise they need, and our students gain practical experience that sets them up for success in their future careers. Such practical experiences are part of the reason our graduates continue to have an employment rate above 99 percent.

“In the case of Parkview in particular, it’s also a win for our region as a whole, since our efforts benefit not only a major local healthcare organization but, by extension, everyone that organization serves.”

Meeting, updates and presentations

Gabet said the collaboration process begins by meeting with Trine students to review different project ideas. After students select a project, they meet with Parkview staff to discuss the tentative product design and the requirements the product needs to fulfill.

As student groups work throughout the semester, they provide weekly updates and meet with Parkview staff, who reviews their progress, provides feedback and answers any questions the students may have.

“Usually, near the end of the project, they actually travel to our center to test out the product in a clinical setting,” Gabet said. “At the end of the year, the students do a formal presentation of their product and manufacturing process. They also hand over their final designs, prototype and manufacturing plans.”

Projects with commercial potential move forward through Parkview’s Mirro Center for Research and Innovation.

Parkview’s experience working with Trine students and faculty has been great, Gabet said, and the organization plans future collaborations, perhaps even some where Parkview pitches problems to students without solution ideas to see what the students come up with.

“The students are very engaged in the entire process,” Gabet said. “We’ve found them to be very thorough throughout the whole process, from the materials they choose to the testing they perform. Our whole staff has been thoroughly impressed with the work the students have produced.”

“We are grateful to Parkview and all our project partners for the opportunity to help our student engineers demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have gained at Trine in a practical way,” said Blume. “We’re also very proud of the work our students perform and look forward to their accomplishments as they launch and continue their careers.”

Photo: Brandon Bruman, a Trine University design engineering technology major, wears the final design for a 3D-printed respirator mask developed by his senior design team in partnership with Parkview Health.