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Enhancing design: introducing engineering students to point of view medical simulation

Oral Presentation 3
Dr Kathryn Fee, Miss Aislinn McAleenan, Prof Gerry Gormley

Enhancing person design: introducing engineering students to point of view medical simulation

Utilising simulation models is customary in engineering education and practice. However, with computational simulation there is a level of detachment from the most important stakeholder - the end user. While empathy is one of the first stages of the design thinking process, it can be difficult to give students the opportunity to observe and consult with potential end users, particularly when it comes to product development for biomedical applications, where individual needs and abilities are personal and vary significantly. In medicine, person-centred rather than computational simulation has been utilised for several decades. This is now recognised within biomedical engineering education. It has been documented that experiences gained through clinical immersions promote user-centred design processes in students.

Through person-centred medical simulation activities, the aim is to nurture engineering students to develop empathy in design to enhance their ability to design devices for all individuals.

A three-hour, person-centred, ageing simulation workshop was designed for the MEng Stage 4 Biomaterials and Medical Device module. Students were split into groups of 5-7. Each group was given a different scenario. Using GERT ageing suits and other devices, volunteers carried out several tasks based on their given scenario. The remainder observed, identifying challenges that the individuals faced.

Following a structured and evidence based debrief which focused on how they felt, what challenges they faced, etc., each group had to isolate a specific challenge and come up with design concepts to solve that problem.
Throughout students had the opportunity to apply their critical thinking skills. They had to identify a problem and implement an appropriate design solution to meet the needs of the individuals in the scenario. Students stated it was “eye-opening to see the difficulties people with these impairments go through on a daily basis”. When asked how the use of ageing simulation has influenced their outlook/approach to engineering design, students said it “really helped me think more empathetically, to take into account the needs of all types of people” and “it has given me a fresh perspective on design, and how an optimal design can work for everyone”. Furthermore, 100% of those who completed the feedback survey stated they “enjoyed the design challenge”, and they “would recommend the workshop to other students”.

This workshop brought a different dimension to both the module and the student’s way of thinking. It challenged the students in their abilities as engineers while emphasising the importance of empathy in design.