UTEP, Watershed Partner for Innovative Engineering Class

The University of Texas at El Paso and Watershed, an idea foundry created by Fountainhead Investment Partners, concluded a public-private pilot class in the mechanical engineering department with final student presentations.

In the Orthopedic Medical Device Design course, 24 senior-level mechanical engineering students learned from Watershed engineers, medical doctors and guest lecturers who shared real-world medical device knowledge.

Over the 15-week class, students designed and developed their own spinal implant, conducted three design review presentations, completed a design history file, and tested prototypes of their designs.

Credit J.R. Hernandez/UTEP Communications

The students’ final projects focus on orthopedic designs that include general biomedical principles with broad applicability.

“This class represents another exciting advance in UTEP’s development as a national research university,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “We are grateful to UTEP alumnus Brian Kieser for initiating this important new relationship with Watershed. In addition to offering our students a unique opportunity to work together with Watershed professionals, and enabling them to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in their academic programs to address real-world challenges, it has reinforced for them the enormous value of the competencies they have acquired in pursuit of their UTEP degrees.”

Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., chair of UTEP’s mechanical engineering department, added, “This course fits perfectly within our curriculum and desire to provide hands-on experiences and prepare our students to be productive immediately in the workplace.”

The class incorporated medical device design with proficiencies of working within healthcare requirements and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. Additionally, students had the opportunity to utilize traditional manufacturing methods, with a basic introduction to quality control as well as more advanced manufacturing methods such as additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.

“When we opened an exploratory office earlier this year in El Paso, this was exactly the kind of public-private partnership we were hoping to

Credit J.R. Hernandez/UTEP Communications
Credit J.R. Hernandez/UTEP Communications

create. Through Watershed and this partnership, we are inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers and giving them the tools to succeed,” said Brian Kieser, managing partner of Fountainhead Investment Partners.

“UTEP is my alma mater and because of that I’ve had a first-hand opportunity to see the innovation within the University’s technology programs such as the W.M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation. Although this is a way to give back to the community I love, it also provides an opportunity for us to recruit and hire the best of talent for our companies.”

Fountainhead Investment Partners and Watershed intend to continue to support UTEP through this program and other course offerings that can benefit from this unique instructional paradigm.