Last week all the engineers involved in integrated product development (think capstone design projects with industry sponsors) gathered up on mountaintop for our midterm presentations. Only instead of the typical presentation where teams stand up and point at figures on a powerpoint we were given the challenge of presenting our work at table top demonstrations. Our advisers decided to use this as a gentle nudge to make us start prototyping ideas earlier than the week before the final and I think it ended up being a huge success!
For the last year and a half my group has been working with Aesculap – a company that specializes in surgical tools. We have been working with their spinal correction division and have been working on developing a device that will help surgeons close the spine during a spinal osteotomy.
So what’s a spinal osteotomy? It’s a procedure where a section of bone is removed in the spine to fix severe deformations.
Current methods to close the spine are using manual compression or using spinal compressors. Neither provide constant, controlled force and this could mean serious complications for an already risky procedure (no thank you).
Here’s an image for what our device will eventually look like once we have it all assembled – right now we’re developing all the parts separately to make sure they work on their own before we go through putting it all together. The main mechanism (1) is a rack and pinion to control the closure by exerting a constant force on the spine while preventing backlash. It connects directly to existing pedicle screws developed by Aesculap (2) and can be screwed in by adjusting the angle at the joint (3) by controlling the handles (4). There’s still a long way to go for this project but so far, so good!
I thought the midterm was a huge success because I’m not the greatest public speaker – I would much rather talk one on one with someone about an idea and answer questions as they came up rather than just ramble on for twenty minutes. Also I feel like this was a good chance to see what all the other teams were doing and how far along they were. Some teams barely had posters together while others had full prototypes and testing completed. It would be awesome if the final presentation could be more casual like this – but unfortunately I think we’ll be going back to the powerpoints by then. Sigh…..