ASU Online students’ engineering capstone project awarded Palais Senior Design Prize

Story via ASU Now.

At the end of the Spring 2019 semester, 56 senior design teams from Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering competed in the electrical engineering program’s Demo Day. Students had the opportunity to showcase their capstone projects, and the team whose project demonstrated the highest degree of technical prowess and clear value to society was awarded the Palais Senior Design Prize. 

"For the first time in Demo Day history, a team made up of exclusively online students received the coveted Palais Senior Design Prize."

The winning team members live all across the country, hailing from California, New York, Ohio and Tennessee. From a distance, the team utilized online tools like Slack and Google Drive to stay organized, communicate regularly and bring home the top prize.

Under the mentorship of Associate Professor Pavan Turaga, electrical engineering seniors Makayla Donaldson, Hadassah Fromowitz, Robert Graves, Olivia Ruthven and Timothy Sparks, who formed their team via a class discussion board, designed and built the Personal Care e-ssistant, a hospital bed that minimizes the risk of pressure ulcers. The need for this kind of innovation is key as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates more than 2.5 million people in the United States develop pressure ulcers annually, and an estimated 60,000 Americans die each year as a result.

With that, Donaldson, Fromowitz, Graves, Ruthven and Sparks worked to address this prevalent issue, jumping at the chance to help create a solution that would not only improve the standard of care and quality of life for patients but also reduce the risk of caregiver injury.

“There are many factors that contribute to the formation of pressure ulcers,” said Fromowitz, who came up with the team’s project platform from witnessing a close family member whose spouse was bedridden due to medical complications. 

"Our bed works by targeting three of the main concerns: prolonged pressure, poor blood circulation and shear and friction."

Prolonged pressure occurs when a patient rests in the same position for an extended period. To alleviate this, caregivers can rotate patients 30 degrees to their side periodically; however, it’s not always possible to assist patients on a consistent schedule. That’s where the Personal Care E-ssistant comes in. The bed makes rotating patients easy, giving caregivers the opportunity to tilt them with just a press of a button and at scheduled intervals.

To address poor blood circulation, the Personal Care e-ssistant’s passive motion allows caretakers to increase patients’ blood circulation without manually moving them. To further assist caregivers, the e-assistant allows them to schedule an automated cycle whereby patients’ upper body and legs are slowly raised and lowered.

Finally, the bed’s sensor subsystem detects when patients are positioned too high or low, notifying elevation issues to caregivers. Meanwhile, the conveyor belt feature in the mattress can be activated to reposition patients as needed.

Graves noted juggling time zones, information-sharing and meeting deadlines was the ultimate “real-world training,” given engineers are increasingly working remotely, collaborating in teams from across the globe.

What’s next for Personal Care e-ssistant?

Fromowitz stated she hopes this is not the end and will be exploring opportunities to take the creation further in the near future. 

< Previous article Next article >

Request Information

To learn more about ASU Online or a specific program, fill out the form below and check your email for information on next steps.