Students engineer solutions to healthcare problems at Westmead

University of Sydney biomedical design student Annasimone Morcos and WSLHD Allied Health researcher Timothea Lau.

Virtual reality, at-home rehab devices and monitoring apps built into hospital beds – the future of healthcare is at our fingertips.

Students from the University of Sydney have partnered with Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) clinicians to uncover the healthcare problems of our time and create innovative solutions through design, engineering and technology.

This semester saw 160 engineering students at Westmead Hospital for the University’s new Biomedical Design and Technology unit, where they formed teams and applied their technical engineering knowledge and skills in a health environment.

Two student project teams have partnered with the WSLHD Allied Health Research team to create a biomedical engineering device for patients suffering from stroke, motor-neurone disease and head and neck cancer.

“Currently patients need to attend hospital for this type of exercise rehabilitation,” Professor of Allied Health Vicki Flood said.

“Students have designed a ‘medtech’ device so patients can conduct rehab exercises at home, allowing them to return to their regular routine sooner and assisting with rehabilitation from illness or slowing progression of disease – vital for patient health and wellbeing.”

The device uses sensors that detect muscle activity to provide immediate feedback to patients, ensuring their exercises are effective and don’t over fatigue the muscles. It also provides a link back to the hospital so clinicians can monitor a patient’s exercises and give feedback through videoconferencing.

“This device is fairly simple yet it addresses a major problem facing the healthcare sector today – keeping people healthy and out of hospital,” course coordinator Dr Ashnil Kumar said.

“By bringing together health and engineering perspectives, and students and clinicians, we can develop innovative solutions to healthcare problems.”

Students will present this device and 22 other engineering projects at the University’s Westmead Multidisciplinary Student Showcase on Wednesday 6 November.

Project teams will have four minutes to pitch their biomedical engineering solutions for feedback from Westmead clinicians, researchers and their fellow classmates.

“This is the ultimate goal of this unit,” Ashnil said.

“We want to build long-lasting mutual relationships between the University and the Westmead Precinct, and set the stage for bigger things to come.”

Westmead clinicians, students and health professionals interested in discovering more biomedical engineering innovations can register online for the showcase in the WECC: