Engineers in ‘Action’

Courtesy of Meghan Knight

Courtesy of Meghan Knight

Having received funding and approval of faculty, the student-established group is set to build their first IV pole prototype.

A group of UC Irvine engineering students met to discuss  the development of a  new  IV pole that may assist and improve the conditions of hospital patients last Wednesday at the Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology.

This student-led and student-organized group called Assisted Actions began when fourth-year mechanical engineering major Ashlee Johnson called for students in her fall 2011 BME 110A class to join her in designing and constructing an assisted fishing pole to help quadriplegic fishing enthusiasts enjoy their hobby.

“Before class one day, Professor Botvinick handed over the microphone to our classmate, Ashlee Johnson and she said that on the side, she was just really trying to design a fishing pole for her cousin to operate,”  fifth-year biomedical engineering major and Assisted Actions team member Emma Gallarza said.

After hearing this, Professor Elliot L. Botvinick expressed interest in the subject and encouraged the students to move forward with the project.

Johnson called for her fellow students to join in this project  and recruited around 30 students. The number of interested students dwindled down until the core group of dedicated designers remained.

“Dr. B encouraged our class at the time to start this project or to all work on this project together,” Johnson said. “Because of our passion to directly help people hands on, we stayed together as a group. We happen to work very well together, we stayed together and now we’re making multiple projects for similar types of patients.”

Alongside their fishing pole project, of which four prototypes exist, Assisted Actions is currently working on an ambitious offshoot project to create a revolutionary new IV pole to assist disabled patients in handling an otherwise cumbersome intravenous rigging system. The project is scheduled to begin construction of their first IV pole prototype as early as spring quarter of 2013.

Currently, Assisted Actions has received an $800 dollar grant from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). The group hopes to use the funding to finance the preliminary phases of their IV pole prototype.

“I’m very proud of them. I don’t know if you guys are aware that, but the whole faculty is aware of their project,”  Botvinik said, who is acting as the faculty advisor for the project. “There’s a lot of interest in our school of engineering to give students more hands-on opportunities, and, at least particularly, BME is very theoretical. In my opinion, they don’t have enough opportunities to get their hands on something and I think this group has just done a beautiful job.”

Dr. Botvinick affirms that the group is unique in being a student-run group that operates almost nearly like a professional company.

“It was completely self-organized,” Botvinick said. “When you get to be my age, you will appreciate it as deeply as I do. It’s very, very rare. They’ve created like a tree hierarchy as to who’s in charge of which project. They look like a start-up company.”