UNM students help improve biomedical designs


Students in a UNM biomedical engineering course are making groundbreaking innovations for biomedical and medical areas.

The class, BME 598: Adaptive Design for the Community, partners undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields with need-knowers in our community who have identified an area that might be considered compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but aren’t ADA-friendly. The students are gaining experience from practicing occupational and physical therapists, teachers, engineers, marketing and patent experts in order to design and create innovative ideas. These ideas are focused on adaptive the environment around the person through new devices developed in the course.

The Adaptive Design Challenge created by the class aims to spark new innovation and interest in adaptive design here at UNM.

Members of the UNM Adaptive Design class will be hosting their first interactive, pop-up style one day event called the Adaptive Design Challenge at the end of this month. The event will include demonstrations of prototypes that students have developed in response to real challenges faced by students, staff, faculty, and visitors to UNM who have disabilities. The prototypes will be available for trial and feedback in order to help the students improve their designs so that we can improve the accessibility of public spaces like UNM for persons with disabilities.

AD’s purpose is to combine the technical background and expertise of students in a collaboration type setting in order to solve difficult problems in the medical field. The professor of the AD class, Dr. Heather Canavan stated the importance of this event saying, “This class is giving students a chance to learn about human-centered design, from learning about what challenges our friends and families with disabilities face, to brainstorming potential approaches, designing and building prototypes that can be tested for human usability, to finally presenting the design for use by the community. It’s also a chance for people with disabilities to come to engineers and be heard, be visible. Together, the public and the students will be able to create a future that is more friendly and welcoming for everyone.”

In addition to testing of the adaptive design prototypes, the students have devised an “escape room” style challenge course. The course will challenge visitors’ ability to adapt to specific challenges faced by people with disabilities. Canavan’s student Phuong Nguyen talked about what she is excited about for this event.

“The event is giving us a chance to test our prototypes so that we can improve them immediately through community participation. Also, we can showcase a part of our research we’re doing at UNM in a way that’s more understandable and interactive than just reading our research papers!”

photo of BME Adaptive Design students
BME graduate students Shepard Moore (left) and Tye Martin (center), work on a class project with Biology undergraduate Darnell Cuylear (right).