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Finding help within / SDSU nursing prof commissions engineering students to build training model

Senior mechanical engineering students at South Dakota State University worked together to produce an artificial bone to be used by nursing students in training them to give intraosseous injections. Pictured, from left, are Ashley Jorgensen, Zachary Dorn, Abbdullah Alrashidi and Denner Dougherty. They undertook the project for SDSU’s Mechanical Engineering Department in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering.
Senior mechanical engineering students at South Dakota State University worked together to produce an artificial bone to be used by nursing students in training them to give intraosseous injections. Pictured, from left, are Ashley Jorgensen, Zachary Dorn, Abbdullah Alrashidi and Denner Dougherty. They undertook the project for SDSU’s Mechanical Engineering Department in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering.

Faced with paying more than $500 for a training device, South Dakota State University nursing faculty member Leann Horsley turned to a group of SDSU mechanical engineering students to see if they could help.

Producing an intraosseous injection task trainer became the senior capstone project for mechanical engineering students Abbdullah Alrashidi, Zachary Dorn, Denner Dougherty and Ashley Jorgensen. Family nurse practitioner students are trained to give injections directly into the bone when it is not possible to give an IV injection.

Currently, the students would learn this skill when on clinicals, according to Horsley, the assistant dean of nursing at the college’s Sioux Falls site. However, because intraosseous injections are typically given in emergency settings, the student often isn’t given the opportunity to learn, she said.

A capstone project is required of engineering students and they often undertake projects for industry. In this case, the client was Horsley, according to mechanical engineering senior lecturer Michael Twedt, who teaches the senior design class.

The students developed a final project just before the end of on-campus instruction this fall and the client has been extremely happy.

“I’ve been very impressed with their professionalism, communication skills and how they overall carried themselves. They displayed an inquisitive mindset and are creating something from the human body by using a 3D printer.

Like the real thing

The students created an 8-inch section of the tibia, directly below the knee.

Brandi Pravecek, a clinical assistant professor in Sioux Falls, served as content expert.

“I am a nurse practitioner in a rural critical access hospital in Scotland and have inserted many IOs during my career. The students created numerous samples of different bone densities and I tested all of them with the IO drill in order to find the one that feels just like insertion through human bone. 

“After comparing the various densities, I found the one that replicated exactly what IO insertion feels like for the provider inserting the IO in real life,” Pravecek said.

It is believed to be the first collaboration between the colleges of engineering and nursing on a manufacturing project, the faculty members said.

Process began in January

Horsley approached Twedt with the idea in January. He presented it to Dorn and Jorgensen, who are also biomedical engineering minors. Alrashidi and Dougherty also showed interest. The group formed Jan. 24 and began initial research and design. The dismissal of on-campus instruction in March slowed the process, but students reassembled in August.

Dorn, of Litchfield, Minnesota, said they were going to use bone cement to create the trainer because research showed that would produce the most realistic model.

But they also produced a model using the most common form of plastic for 3D printers. “It was determined to be just as good,” Dorn said. “It was 10 times easier and 800 times cheaper,” Twedt said.

Produced 60% under budget

Within the tibia model, the students designed a 1-inch replaceable section where the model will be drilled. That way only a small section needs to be replaced after it becomes worn from multiple injections. That small section costs only .6 of one cent compared to $80 for 40 grams of bone cement, Dorn said.

While the students had a $1,000 budget through Horsley’s funds as the Goodale Faculty Scholar supported by Eugene and JoAnn Goodale of Brookings, they only spent $400, Jorgensen, of Tomah, Wisconsin, said. In the future, to replace the entire bone would only cost $20, she said.

A new bone may be produced before the current bone is worn-out. Horsley would like to have a trainer for the Sioux Falls and Rapid City family nurse practitioner programs. The students’ plans are left with the Lohr College of Engineering, she noted. The current trainer will go into use in January.

Pravecek said, “We are excited to be able to offer this hands-on opportunity for IO insertion for our students. Simulating real-life experiences and procedures is one of the most effective teaching methods we use when preparing students for practice.”

More collaboration to come?

Horsley is anxious to test future engineering students with another project. “I will look at my list and plan to submit a longer list (of project ideas) next time.”

While creating a replica of the anatomy is certainly unique for mechanical engineering students, Twedt said there are similarities if students are designing and manufacturing a nursing testing device or building a part for a bicycle. “They’re learning about design, manufacturing, cost reduction and other concepts that work for every project.”

Dougherty, of Morris, Minnesota, said, “The human body is just a machine. Our project dealt more with material testing and design rather than moving parts.”

The testing even included a trip to the SDSU cadaver lab to compare hardness of the actual product to the students’ model.