CPR and bio-engineering

Jul 14, 2006

Students in the MECH350 (Fracture lab) expect to learn about anatomy - they just figure its mostly about bones. Last semester they integrated all the bio-systems and became CPR certified too.

Students in Dr. Patrick Atkinson's MECH350 Bio-engineering class certainly got a real-world education last semester. In addition to learning about the engineering aspects of skeletal traction and how mechanical engineers help doctors repair bone fractures with medical hardware, they all became CPR certified.

CPR is not a regular part of the course, but Atkinson, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, thought it would be beneficial for students to understand the integrated systems of the human body, including cardio-vascular and respiratory, when designing medical devices to treat patients with bone fractures.

"Students need to understand that the bones can't be viewed as separate from the other biological functions," Atkinson said, "when you are developing devices to repair skeletal structures you need to take into account cardio-vascular operations, respiration and internal organs as well."

The best way Atkinson could think of to introduce a basic understanding of the cardio-vascular and respiratory systems was to have the entire class Red Cross CPR certified. "The Red Cross CPR and First Aid training is a great introduction to human anatomy and how we can use engineering in relation to the body," said Atkinson.

The biggest hurdle was finding funding, since the $3,000 in Red Cross CPR training fees had not been built-in to the course fees.

In a classic 'it's not what you know it's who you know' situation, one of Atkinson's students was B-Section president for Sigma Chi fraternity. Mike Calabro, a senior from Dryden, told Atkinson about a grant program through the international Sigma Chi organization for risk management programs.

The Kettering chapter of the fraternity had been recognized by the international organization for outstanding risk management programs and practices and had received a $10,000 grant to spend on further risk management programming. Calabro offered to have Sigma Chi pay for the CPR and First Aid training. Priority was given to students in MECH350 and members of the fraternity and then opened to the campus community.

Students finished the semester certified in CPR and First Aid, and having re-designed a "skeleton" made of PVC pipe, wood and various household hardware to use traction projects. "I had the Winter MECH353 class make the original version of the skeleton," said Atkinson, "but it was disproportionately tall at 6' 6" and with shoulders that were too wide." The MECH350 class redesigned the skeleton to be the average height for an American male and represent someone weighing 150 pounds, according to Atkinson.

The skeleton will continue "his" tenure at Kettering, providing valuable hands-on experience in designing traction systems for Bio-engineering students.

Written by Dawn Hibbard