Forty-eight hours isn’t much time to solve a medical conundrum. But that’s what Texas A&M engineering and medical students do at Aggies Invent. The competitive challenge, offered by the Texas A&M Dwight Look College of Engineering, brings together students from across the A&M campus to attack some of the industry’s top needs.

The event is hosted by the office of Engineering Academic and Student Affairs (EASA) and sponsored by the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. It is a 48 hour challenge offered at the Engineering Innovation Center (EIC), a 20,000 square foot rapid prototyping lab. Aggies Invent has been so successful that the 2016 schedule has doubled in size with seven events throughout the year.

The format of the event is created to engage about 60 students in hands-on projects that will push their innovation and creativity. The event presents industry needs statements to the students, allows the students to self-select teams, gives them access and support at EIC, and then unleashes students to attack the ideas and create prototypes in 48 hours.

Each Aggies Invent is designed in collaboration with industry and faculty. At the final presentations, Aggies Invent teams compete for cash awards.

The end goal is to provide students the opportunity to acquire skills essential to becoming successful innovation leaders and support them in founding startup companies. Last year sponsors such as NASA, Texas Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tenaris, Intel, Confluence Ventures, PECO Medical, Freescale, and Baylor Scott & White supplied the students with need statements for projects that the companies do not have the time or the money to currently support.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for medical students with young, energetic and innovative minds to interact with engineering students and others to work towards the common goal of providing better patient care,” said Ruth Bush, M.D., J.D, M.P.H., vice dean for academic affairs and vice dean for the Texas A&M College of Medicine in Bryan-College Station.

One of last year’s winning teams, UnderControl, included Cara Buskmiller and Nicholas Taluzek from the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

The UnderControl team designed a wearable product to help people battling incontinence. Pelvic floor muscle training is an important adjunct to urinary control in females, and more than 30 percent of patients perform that muscle training incorrectly. Because biofeedback can help reinforce proper technique, the team created an underwear prototype with sensors over the abdomen, buttocks and perineum to provide negative and positive feedback based on which muscle groups were utilized during exercise.

“The cool thing about being a medical student was that I was helping engineers on other teams know what to do, too,” Buskmiller said. “Some of the other team members didn’t know what a pelvic floor was, so it was so great to be on the team and share my medical knowledge.”

“It was incredible to see how much knowledge could be in one room, it was really humbling,” Buskmiller said. “But it was nice to see that I really had something to add to this team of people who were so smart. It was nice to share my knowledge with them and a ‘shot in the arm’ for my confidence as a med student.”

Buskmiller is now in residency at St. Louis University/SSM St. Mary’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“Aggies Invent is the gathering point for students of all levels and majors, focused at solving real problems in an intense design experience. All we do is provide the facilities, support staff, challenges and most importantly food! The students do the rest and the results are amazing,” said Rodney Boehm, industry mentor and mediator of Aggies Invent.

Students interested in participating can register here. Companies who want to get involved, please contact Aggies Invent at aggiesinvent@tamu.edu and follow them on Twitter @aggiesinvent.

— Katherine Hancock

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