A New Perspective on Engineering Design

As the end of our first full week in Costa Rica comes to an end, it’s time to do some reflecting. This past week, we were involved in the Medical Device Innovation short course led by Dr. Richardson, Dr. Wettergreen, and Dr. Clifton. In the course, we worked with about 30 Costa Rican students of all ages with varied backgrounds to tackle a medical need using the engineering design process. This process included brainstorming, prototyping, and presenting our prototype.

GMI with our Costa Rican teammates.

This course was very similar to my senior Capstone experience, but I still gained new perspectives and learned a lot about the design process because the experience was so different. I worked with people who had very different backgrounds and thinking processes from myself, and since the course was packed into 5 days, there was no time to second guess decisions or put off decision making. The adrenaline was high all week, which helped my team work hard and smart. It was exhilarating to have to learn how to work efficiently with my new Costa Rican teammates, familiarize ourselves with the anatomy and physiology behind our project, generate concepts, create a prototype, and present our prototype all in 5 short (but long) days.

Before we started real prototyping, we were introduced to low-fidelity prototyping, which can be defined as using raw materials to build something simple as a proof of concept. This was a good activity for me because it forced me to be creative and not think so much about coming up with the “perfect” solution in one sitting, which is something I struggle with. Making a low-fidelity prototype and making a contest out of it was not only fun but also helpful in breaking some mental barriers I had towards hands-on prototyping.

My group worked on creating a more portable and convenient device for healing metacarpal neck fractures. All of my team members were so motivated and hard-working that it was easy and enjoyable to wake up at 6 a.m. every day and work all day for the whole week. It was inspiring to see how genuinely interested and invested they were in this course and in design in general. Their high energy was contagious, making this experience even more valuable to me.

My team’s prototype that aligns the hand and wrist at the proper angles for healing.

There were a few notable things that my team did to help us work efficiently and effectively:

  • Divide up tasks
  • Set realistic deadlines for these tasks to be completed and reviewed
  • Use strengths and weaknesses of the team wisely
  • Don’t reject seemingly unrealistic or “silly” ideas at any stage of the process
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page about the team’s mission and goals

I really enjoyed this week and was glad to be a part of a high-functioning team. I met so many kind, driven students during the course and am excited to keep in touch with them. I learned a lot from them about their areas of academic expertise and about Costa Rica, and I hope they also had some valuable takeaways from the course and from me.

My awesome short course team!

To end this intense week, we GMIers took a weekend trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. We spent a day at Playa Espadilla and spent the next day at the national park. It rained the entire time we were at the park, which made it a unique experience because I’ve never walked through a forest in the pouring rain. We saw amazing flora, monkeys, an owl, deer, and beautiful beaches. Looking forward to more weekend adventures! It has been a fun week and a great weekend, but I am ready to start our internships tomorrow morning, bright and early!

One of the private beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park


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