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Home | Tag Archives: UTEP’s College of Engineering

Tag Archives: UTEP’s College of Engineering

Video+Gallery+Story: TTUHSC El Paso, UTEP develop ‘Texas Breather,’ low cost, 3D-printed ventilator for hospitals

Nationwide, hospitals are concerned about a possible shortage of ventilators as more Americans require treatment for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease that can cause life-threatening respiratory problems such as pneumonia.

A collaboration between Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso could help solve the problem. Using 3D printing, the team of physicians and engineers have developed an innovative, low-cost ventilator for the health care sector.

Scott Crawford, M.D., associate professor and director of TTUHSC El Paso’s Training and Educational Center for Healthcare Simulation (TECHS), is helping lead the initiative to manufacture the shoebox-sized devices, dubbed the Texas Power Bag Breather, or Texas Breather.

“This low-cost ventilator would be used if existing mechanical ventilators were not available in any setting requiring assisted breathing,” Dr. Crawford said. “While there’s a particular need in third-world and developing nations, if an industrialized nation became overwhelmed, it could help in those regions as well.”

The Texas Breather design was developed by Dr. Crawford; retired TTUHSC El Paso faculty member Robert Stump, M.D., Ph.D.; and Luis Ochoa, a manager at the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation in UTEP’s College of Engineering. After two weeks of prototyping six iterations of the device, Ochoa requested support from UTEP Keck Center Director Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., to put the full resources of the center behind the project.

“Dr. Crawford, Dr. Stump and Luis converged on a simple, yet elegant and innovative concept that capitalized on the strengths of additive manufacturing,” Wicker said. “Recognizing the need and the potential clinical advantages of the design, this was a perfect application of the Keck Center’s rapid-response engineering capabilities. More than a dozen individuals, including faculty, staff and students, immediately focused 100% effort on getting the design finalized for reliability testing. We combined simulation, design interaction, and rapid prototyping and testing to respond in a pandemic timescale. I am very proud of Luis and the entire Keck team for how quickly we came together to try and make a difference during this pandemic.”

The team has requested an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow health care workers to use the Texas Breather during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospital ventilators can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but Dr. Crawford believes the Texas Breather can be made using currently available 3D technology for less than $1,000 per unit, thanks to the design’s simplicity. He said each device would take about eight hours to produce.

The main cost-and-time saving innovation of the Texas Breather involves the incorporation of relatively inexpensive bag-valve mask devices that are available in large quantities at hospitals. First responders and emergency health care teams use bag-valve masks to manually provide ventilation to patients who are not breathing or are having trouble breathing.

Close collaboration between the TTUHSC El Paso board-certified emergency physicians and their teams, and the faculty, engineers and students in the Keck Center at UTEP was key to rapidly refining the design of the Texas Breather. The device mounts to an IV pole at the patient’s bedside and provides an adjustable airflow volume and respiratory rate. All mechanical components are fabricated with production-grade material and have successfully passed simulated-use and worst-case scenario testing.

The team used advanced respiratory simulation tools in the TECHS center to test and calibrate the device. These tools, used by TTUHSC El Paso students to study respiratory physiology, played an important part in validating the safety and functionality of the Texas Breather.

“Being able to accurately record the pressure, volume and airflow of the Texas Breather was a key element for pursuing emergency use authorization from the FDA. We’re fortunate to have access to these specialty simulation tools at TECHS,” Dr. Crawford said.

UTEP used a Stratasys 3D printer to produce parts to assemble the Texas Breather devices. Dr. Crawford said the team has produced working prototypes, and with additional funding, large-scale production using 3D printing could produce hundreds per week.

Ochoa, who has been working with Stratasys equipment for nearly two decades, translated the doctors’ design concepts into reality. The team used computer simulation to refine the design, which reduced the number of design-build-test cycles and shortened the development process by weeks. This expertise in UTEP’s Keck Center in close collaboration with the TTUHSC El Paso doctors was the key to success.

Key industry partners of the Keck Center also contributed to the development of the Texas Breather. Medical device professionals from Bessel LLC helped prepare for FDA submission, simulation software maker Ansys Inc. assisted UTEP engineers with extensive simulations, and Stratasys Inc. donated prototypes and materials for fabrication.

Stormy Monks, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Foster School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine at TTUHSC El Paso, and Jesica Urbina, Ph.D., TECHS senior research associate, are working to secure grants to support production of the Texas Breather. Victor Torres, TECHS innovation engineer, and Joel Libove, Ph.D., are assisting in the final design of electrical controls for the ventilator.

“We have the goal of sharing our invention for general use but are pursuing grant funding for manufacturing on a large scale,” Dr. Crawford said. “We would like to produce 1,000 to 2,000 units to assist with the projected deficit of ventilators in American hospitals.”

Heidi Taboada Named Engineering Associate Dean

Theresa A. Maldonado, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Engineering, has appointed Heidi A. Taboada, Ph.D., as the associate dean for research and graduate studies.

Taboada joined The University of Texas at El Paso in 2007.  She is currently an associate professor in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering. She holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in industrial and systems engineering from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Her research interests intersect broad areas such as applied operations research, systems analysis and optimization, resiliency and sustainability, and metaheuristic and biologically inspired optimization. Her research contributions involve the development of multiple objective optimization models, reliability models, evolutionary game theory algorithms, and agricultural systems optimization models.

Taboada has expanded her research interests to include innovations in engineering education. She is particularly interested in research related to increasing the participation of minorities and women in engineering. She strongly believes that meaningful experiential learning experiences transform students’ lives.

Furthermore, her international work includes the development of and participation in different faculty-led study abroad programs in Latin America through funding received by the U.S. Department of State and the 100K Strong in the Americas Initiative.

“Dr. Taboada has demonstrated routinely the power of interdisciplinary collaborations toward achieving research outcomes that impact society,” Maldonado said. “She will be a tremendous addition to the Dean of Engineering Office, serving the college faculty and students.”

Taboada has been the principal or co-principal investigator of more than $10 million in funding from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and industry. Among her multiple research awards, Taboada was the recipient of the UTEP ORSP Millionaire Research award.

She has published more than 50 refereed manuscripts in technical journals, book chapters and conference proceedings. Her work has been published in IEEE Transactions on Reliability, Reliability Engineering and System Safety, IISE Transactions, and Quality Technology and Quantitative Management, among others.

Engineering, English Professors Team Up to Help Students Become Professional Engineers

The best research and proposals don’t do much good if they aren’t communicated in a clear and concise way. UTEP Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Reza Ashtiani, Ph.D., recognized that successful engineers must have strong writing skills and set out to ensure his students developed them.

Since joining UTEP’s College of Engineering faculty in November 2012, Ashtiani has spearheaded research projects that have created many opportunities for students to gain research experience. In the course of his work with students, he discovered that many were having a hard time creating quality lab reports.

“As a professional geotechnical engineer, you should be able to communicate the ideas of the lab and field tests paired with your perceptions on the research and outcomes, and I was not seeing that (in his students’ reports),” Ashtiani said.

In response, he reached out to UTEP’s Department of English and partnered with R. Joseph Rodríguez, Ph.D., assistant professor of English education, to develop a program to bridge the gap between student’s exceptional research abilities and their struggles to write about their research.

“My contribution to the development of the learning module was defining academic writing and concepts that are transferable to professional laboratory report writing,” Rodríguez said. “These writing concepts were then complemented by the expertise of Dr. Ashtiani to create something that would prepare students to think and write like a civil engineer for the profession.”

Together, they began the project “Exploring Students’ Conceptions about Engineering Research and Scientific Writing.” The project received a $5,000 grant from UTEP for supplies, to cover student salaries, and to develop a module to help improve student writing.

“The award permitted interdisciplinary work that complements our expertise and shared interests in the students’ learning, understanding and success,” Rodríguez said.

To develop a laboratory report module, Ashtiani and Rodríguez began by determining what components are necessary to complete a lab report, and then examined previous students’ lab reports to identify the areas that require improvement.

UTEP Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Reza Ashtiani, Ph.D., teaches a class using a module developed by Ashtiani and R. Joseph Rodríguez, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of English. Photo courtesy of the UTEP College of Engineering
UTEP Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Reza Ashtiani, Ph.D., teaches a class using a module developed by Ashtiani and R. Joseph Rodríguez, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of English.
Photo courtesy of the UTEP College of Engineering

“I prepared a document outlining the general format of a lab report – the abstract, the introduction, the lab procedure, the analysis, the results, and finally the references – so they would know what the components are,” Ashtiani said. “The goal was to develop a module that students could go through and see how to formulate their lab reports in a professional way.”

The final product is a module that walks students step-by-step through the process of compiling a professional lab report. As students navigate through each section of the module, it tracks and logs their progress to ensure they are taking the time to fully complete each portion.

“We are seeing that students are actually going through the material and moving forward,” Ashtiani said. “In turn, students are providing us with feedback about how we can enhance the module. As a result, compared to past lab reports, the quality of their lab reports has improved tremendously.”

Luvina Jurado, a senior civil engineering major, said the lab report module has allowed her to feel more comfortable writing technical reports.

“Dr. Ashtiani is a great professor who pushes us to work hard,” Jurado said. “[The lab report module] provided me with a checklist to help ensure that I was including all the information that needed to be in the report, and helped me to better follow the proper sequence of writing a lab report.”

Ashtiani also works to bring highly competitive research projects to UTEP, and has secured more than $1 million in research grants. But helping students is an equally important part of his job.

“I stepped out of my normal research area to create this module because, as faculty, we have different responsibilities,” Ashtiani said. “One part is research, but equally important parts are teaching and service. We can obviously go through the materials just in terms of the books, but we have a responsibility to our students to show them exactly what to expect when they go into the industry after graduation.”

Author: Chyanne Smith – UTEP

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