BME Capstone Design Course Produces International Award Finalist Projects

By on April 7, 2014

Established in 2001 by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, UAB boasts the only accredited biomedical engineering program in the state of Alabama.

In culmination of the challenging curriculum, students complete a BME Senior Capstone Design project that is presented to faculty, community members, and business partners each spring. The task combines marketing and entrepreneurship in conjunction with the UAB School of Business and engineering to provide technological solutions to the disabled community.

Two of the projects from the current cohort have landed spots as finalists for the 2014 da Vinci Awards, an international program that searches for the most promising innovations that help people to overcome physical limitations imposed by disabilities.

All proceeds from the awards program benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Previous winning projects include AbleGamers, which helps those with disabilities to play video games; Supplemented Speech Recognition; and Virtual Musical Instrument (VMI) to expand creative potential regardless of physical ability.

Ryan Densmore, Shelby May, Daniel McFalls and Stephen Mehi designed a wheelchair for toddlers that is controlled by a joystick. The model has already been used in the Birmingham community at the Lakeshore Foundation and the Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs.

The second project features the Scale-Metrix Wheelchair Scale used for at-home weight monitoring. Current scale models designed for wheelchair users are both bulky and costly, ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. Most disabled people must rely on the scales at rehabilitation facilities and clinics, or dismiss weight monitoring altogether.

The designers behind the more accessible and cost efficient model include Jarrod Collins, Josh Haynes, Austin Johnson, and Brandon Sherrod, in partnership with Dr. Alan Eberhardt.

Their device weighs approximately 50% less than any comparable option, and has a weight capacity of 800 pounds. The team refined their prototype to include a touch-screen LCD display with an SD card. This would allow patients to store and track their measurements to report to their doctors and nurses.

The competition for the award includes projects from the United States, Switzerland, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom.

Categories include Communication/Educational Aids, Environmental Adaptation / Daily Living or Work Aids, Prosthetics / Orthotics / Controls, Recreation and Leisure, and Transportation and Mobility.

The winner of the Leo Award for people’s acknowledgement will be given to the project whose video receives the most likes on YouTube.

Support the UAB teams by visiting

Winners will be announced at an awards gala on April 10 in Dearborn, Michigan.

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