Campus & Community

Engineering Idol

2 min read

DEAS students build devices that give heart tissue and bones a boost

The winner of this year’s ES100-100hf senior engineering design project course competition aimed straight for the heart by recording an electrical “ballad.” The runners-up (a tie for second), meanwhile, worked themselves to the bone and relied on “heavy metal” riffs. All three, narrowed down from a group of more than a dozen talented Harvard seniors, impressed the panel faculty judges with their performances (and of course, those colorful PowerPoint presentations).

First-place accolades went to William Adams ’06 who created a microelectrode array, a 14-by-14 millimeter “data collector” for cardiac electrophysiological experimentation. The array, a tight arrangement of gold electrodes adhered to a glass substrate (imagine a tiny bed of nails), was built entirely within the Center for Nanoscale Systems’ cleanroom. Adams’ adviser Kit Parker, assistant professor of bioengineering, explains that the array will enable researchers to better study tissue-scale electrical interactions for in vitro (test tube-based) cardiac activity and will aid in collecting data during simulated heart attacks and under other experimental conditions.

Runners-up Chelsea Simmons ’06 and Robert Everett ’06 both used their engineering prowess to improve surgical techniques. Simmons presented an expanding screw system for use in spinal fusions, a common remedy for back pain where vertebrae are joined together to eliminate motion and friction. Everett teamed up with another group of experts, knee-injury specialists from Baptist Orthopedic Hospital.