This summer studio has been extremely valuable for my development as a biomedical engineer, and has taught me a great amount from prototyping, to technical skills of programming and 3D printing design, to further developed my communication skills in team situations as well as presenting my project during the final summer studio showcase. I have also been able to cover all the SLOs of the subject and will be able to utilise the skills and knowledge gained from this studio in my future studies and career.
– Engage with stakeholders to identify a problem or scope a defined problem
During week 1 I learnt a lot about the stakeholders of heart rate monitoring devices and the types of solutions currently on the market. Later, I began to understand the more technical aspects such as the use of Bluetooth Low Energy and the processing of biosignals. I was also able to identify a potential solution to make a device which is smaller, personal, more accessible and wireless – which are all common themes for the future of medical devices.
– Apply design and systems thinking to respond to a defined or newly identified problem.
Also during week 1 I learnt about Proof of Concept prototyping and hacking. I learnt a lot about the design process of IoT devices and that the process is more cyclical than a straight line, as with most design processes. Unfortunately I was unable to test the validity of my device without access to either a pulse oximeter or ECG machine.
– Apply technical skills to develop, model and/or evaluate designs.
The most learning for me was surrounding technical skills. Before completing this studio I had extremely limited programming understanding and now I feel confident enough to work with either C++, node.js or Python in future projects. I now also have an understanding of microcontroller pins and how/when to use them after prototyping with both an Arduino Uno and NodeMCU board. Week 2 and 3 taught me about IoT infrastructure, from broker to protocol to database to visualisations. During week 4 I learnt more about reading component or IC datasheets, basic analogue concepts including the need of a DC reference, and using the DSO to probe and test different points of PCBs. During week 5 I learnt how to use Autodesk Fusion 360, how to design viable objects to 3D print – including filleting all edges to increase strength and using ‘draft’ to create 45 degree angles inside extruded text to make it clearer. Week 6 was back to programming again where I learnt how to use the Python library pandas to create dataframes and I further learnt about functions and other aspects more specific to Python such as global variables.
– Demonstrate effective collaboration and communication skills.
Our collaboration in week 2 where we set up our IoT infrastructure as a team helped to reaffirm my communication while using Teams, when making sure to divide group work fairly and when coming together to explain to each other what we had achieved for that sprint. During the final summer studio showcase, I had the opportunity to practice my communication skills with various people of different levels and understanding of the work done in our IoT studio. It was very valuable for me to practice presenting my work with no preparation, however in the future I would be more organised in setting up a smoother live demonstration.
– Conduct critical self, peer, and group review and performance evaluation.
In terms of self evaluation, this project portfolio was a good medium to use as it allowed me to make weekly review of what I had achieved and what challenges I was to face next. I was also able to receive performance evaluation from my peers during group work, and throughout the rest of studio – especially when I was completing new tasks in programming or in understanding IoT infrastructure. I was also able to give my peers feedback when they were completing the tasks which I was more familiar with, such as soldering our components to a perforated board or understanding circuit block diagrams.
From our facilitator and other studio facilitators, as well as friends from the Electronics Studio, I was also able to gain valuable feedback and insights into the best approaches to take, how to improve upon my own ideas and what might be next for me if I were to conduct another project similar to this in the future.
During the summer studio project, we explored many different levels of technology. The highest level of these was global systems, which includes internet, and the lowest level being the quantum world.
Quite a few of these levels were explored over the past 6 weeks, with an emphasis on the higher levels as we were working with global internet for databases and sending our data to “the cloud” with Vultr. The timeline below shows a summarised experience with traversing these levels of technology.
The most evident example of getting ‘suck’ in searching for lower level solutions was when trying to find a solution for the battery problem. Going down to level 5 while reading the datasheet for the battery charger component did not give any solution as there was no information on how to “re-program” a resistor to change the charging rate. Instead of then looking to a higher level solution, we searched even lower at level 4 for a solution involving transistors to build a current limiter circuit. As I have extremely limited understanding of transistors this direction would have taken me a long time to understand and build a solution. At this point our facilitator recognised that I was beginning to be stuck in a “rabbit hole” – or in other words, becoming stuck on lower and lower level problems without solving the initial issue at hand. By then moving up levels, we were able to test and recognise two higher level solutions: one, that a simpler solution is to provide a DC charger which already incorporates a current limiter, and two, that the Lipo battery which I was using already had a current limiting circuit and there was no need for any changes at all. If this rabbit hole had gone unnoticed, I would have wasted even more time unnecessarily trying to learn how to build a circuit with transistors. This taught me that it is important to explore other possible solutions in different technology levels as an engineer, as a fitting solution may already be present.
Another example from this summer studio would be any programming challenge I faced. As someone with nearly zero programming experience prior to the summer studio, I didn’t know how to go about finding solutions to my problems. I would often get stuck in “rabbit holes” where I would not know what to search for and accidentally search too low level, rather than looking for higher level solutions better suited for beginners – such as libraries. For example, when solving the challenge of calculating live BPM, I was searching for solutions using C++ including things like how to create thresholds, or how to measure time in between two events. I also got caught up in reading about complex algorithms and s-transformations used by legitimate ECG machines to calculate various values including heart rate. From the start I should have looked for discrete analysis examples – especially in Python as I’ve learnt that the language is often used at a higher level than C++. Once I did search for this solution, I found what I was looking for almost instantaneously and finally started to make process on my project again.