Learn.

As part of the Innovation Scholar experience, I took two college courses that would help me to explore and find solutions to my problem.

*DGET 1260: 3D Computer Aided Drafting (CAD)

I actually took the first course, CAD, when I was in high school as a concurrent enrollment class–before I even knew about the Innovation Scholar program! Actually, it was even before I was taking blood thinners. This is just one example of how my life has been aligning itself towards my passions without me even realizing it!

In this extremely useful class, I learned how to use popular computer drafting programs (specifically AutoCAD) to design 3D objects–simple to complex. I believe that learning any type of CAD is a skill that is invaluable in a world that is quickly evolving from cookie-cutter to customized, where people are more interested in design and individuality than mass production. Specifically, I am thinking about the new 3D printer technology that is exploding right now–a technology that will allow anyone with a 3D printer and basic CAD skills to design and print their own 3D objects from dollhouse furniture to working firearms. 

CAD knowledge is essential to my success in solving my problem. I want to be involved in the design of every aspect of my envisioned device—from the software programming to the design of the device itself—and knowing some sort of CAD is the only way to do it.

The breadth of the class I took was very large. We started by learning how to design very simple shapes and then learned how to join shapes and form simple machines like joints and sockets. These skills will help me when I am designing the components of my device because I am armed with the knowledge of how to take two separate pieces and make them work together in the final design. The course then moved on to more complex designs like a theoretically functioning wooden train set. The train set exercise included many components that were extremely complex and took hours to design. The time and practice spent designing those components not only aided in my proficiency in CAD, but also taught me advanced skills that I can easily apply to the design of my device such as intricate locking mechanisms and the design of slots for batteries.

I gained more than just skills by taking the CAD class. Not only will it allow me to design my own device, it will save me a lot of time, trial and error. In CAD, I will be able to design components of my device and see how they fit together virtually without having to spend time on trial and error while building prototypes. Additionally, the 3D printing capabilities will be priceless when creating prototypes! Instead of building it out of scrap materials, I can simply design it and print it out! Alternatively, if I did want to build a prototype by hand (if I needed to use a material that is not supported by the 3D printer) I could use my own materials and follow the part measurements in the design that is built in the CAD program. I could also use CAD to more easily send ideas and prototypes back and forth to mentors and others who may be able to help me with my idea without having to send an actual, physical prototype.   

*UGS 1430: Integrated Science

This course helped me realize my passion and work towards solving my big question in more than one way.

The course is part of a special scholarship program for incoming freshmen women who have an interest in science and mathematics. I was very lucky to have been selected for this opportunity because it was the biggest deciding factor that I had that led me to decide on studying engineering which has, in turn, provided me with many opportunities to learn about and work on my medical device idea.

The summer long course consisted of small courses taught in physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics that included a lecture and some sort of group project component. This course provided me with one of my first real experiences in working with a group to solve problems. The skills I learned from this group work will be invaluable to me as I get further into developing my device and as I gather a group to assist me in doing so.

The biology component of the course was very useful to me in that it helped me to understand some of the workings of the human body. More specifically, I was able to learn about blood and the way the body uses blood. I also learned how and why blood coagulates and I was even taught about how blood thinning medications work! (They do not, although their name claims otherwise, actually thin the blood—but just make it less “sticky” and keep it from binding together to form clots!) This component of the course, as well as a little bit of the chemistry component, gave me a good idea of how I will design my device to test the coagulation of blood.

While the biology component was useful to my overall understanding of blood and blood thinners, the most useful part of the course was the mathematics component. The math component began by teaching about codes and different ways of presenting and using data. Then, the course covered some information that (while it seems obvious knowledge now) I had never heard of before—something that is, to me at least, revolutionary.

Algorithms. The beautiful, little or large, specific or complex set of rules that are followed in calculations or other problem-solving. Once I learned about algorithms I immediately thought of my problem and knew that I could use an algorithm to solve it. The main component of my device will be software that will be able to tell a patient how to adjust their medication dosage—using an algorithm! Although my introduction to algorithms was brief, I was suddenly provided with a very straightforward way to think about my problem. Learning about algorithms turned what to me was the magic of computer programming into something completely doable and even easy.

Later on in my academic career I took another course, CS 1001, that was all about algorithms and computer programming. As part of that course, I wrote a range of algorithms that solved math problems to drawing stars with line plots. As a final project, I programmed an entire “Hangman” game that would allow a user to play Hangman against the computer! While this course did not fulfill the Innovation Scholar program requirements because it was only half a semester in length, it allowed me to work with my knowledge gained in the UGS 1430 course and apply what I knew about algorithms to finally be able to write my own.

With my skills thanks to both of the courses, I am currently working on writing my own algorithm for my device.  

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