Congratulations to the Winners of the 2019-2020 Kick-Starts!


Hawkeye Head Holder

Lindsey Mundt, Akar Jani, Emma Rigby, Nick Nielsen and Carly Donahue

Our head supporting device helps neurosurgeons achieve spinal alignment for their patients during surgery to correct cervical kyphosis. During this surgery the patient is in a prone position exposing the back of their neck to the surgeon. This requires a device to support the head and prevent any displacement during the surgical procedure. Our solution would help fixate the patient’s head throughout the duration of the 4 to 5 hour surgery without allowing for slippage, which is a common occurrence when using the current solution: The Mayfield Head Clamp. This device uses 3 pins to support the skull by applying a horizontal force of about 60lbs. Our mentor, Dr. Hitchon, uses this device in surgery daily and often witnesses its shortcomings. Slippage can create spinal misalignment during the procedure and lacerate the patient. Our design will address these functional deficiencies to provide better alignment outcomes and ensure patients’ safety.

We are currently in the concept phase of development and looking to prototype. Our idea revolves around what we identified as the mechanical cause for Mayfield head clamp slippage: misalignment of the pins. Our device will assist in the placement of the pins by using a pre-measured guide that references the patients ears. The head’s center of gravity and symmetry can be captured by referencing this landmark. Think earbuds with placement arms.

Sponsors: Colleen Bringman and Seth Dillard


Multi-functional Compartmentalized Product Analysis Reactor

Collin Sindt, Patrick Henkhaus, Mason Lyons, Dimitiri Gatzios and Nathan Jarvey

Currently, Dr. Mubeen’s research lab utilizes a multi-layer product analysis reactor composed of square plates of acrylic interspaced with layers of silicone rubber to seal the apparatus. A picture of this reactor is attached in the supporting documents. This design grants a lot of utility and can be manipulated to suit a variety of different experiments. The reactor allows the user to create different compartments for product analysis, meaning that they can isolate chemical products as they are formed. While this design is very usable, it has drawbacks in efficiency that make it distasteful to use. These difficulties include assembly time, ease of use, and the quality of the seal between compartments. The current apparatus is held together by several screws that span the length of the assembly. However, these screws are cumbersome, labor intensive, and don’t always ensure an effective seal. These problems lead to a vast amount of wasted time in the lab and could jeopardize the validity of a number of experiments, as some of the samples used in this reactor must remain wet in order for the desired chemistry to occur. The integrity of these samples is jeopardized by the length of time required to assemble the reactor, which can lead to the samples drying out. To combat these issues, I have proposed a redesign of this reactor to address three key factors: ease and speed of assembly, effectiveness of the seal, and cost effectiveness.

The first fundamental change to the design of the reactor is to incorporate a sealing mechanism with a circular geometry to utilize readily available o-rings in order to seal the reactor. Currently, the silicone rubber seals have to be hand cut, a method which cannot always guarantee an effective seal and requires a significant amount of valuable researcher time. A construction which utilizes o-rings would be more time and cost efficient, as well as ensuring a more effective seal by focusing the pressure of the seal onto a much smaller area. The second fundamental change to the design of the reactor is to utilize an external source of pressure to seal the apparatus. The current design utilizes screws, which is time intensive and does not always provide an effective seal. An external source which can apply pressure to the system would provide the requisite pressure needed to seal the apparatus in a much smaller time frame. Two possibilities for this application I am considering are in a neck-clamp type apparatus, which would enclose the device over a wide range of total lengths, or the use of a hydraulic press type device to achieve the same result. The goal is to maintain the variation in length currently afforded by the reactor design, but reduce the time it takes to generate an effective seal.

Sponsors: Dr. Syed Mubeen


Next-Generation Stage Measurement at Ungauged Locations using IoT

Muhammed Yusuf Sermet

The growing availability of smart devices with advanced sensors has increased opportunities for the Internet of Things (IoT) applications in environmental monitoring. Accurate and widespread monitoring of river stage is vital for modeling water resources. Reliable data points are required for model calibration and validation in forecast studies. While current embedded monitoring systems provide accurate measurements, the cost to replicate these systems on a large domain is prohibitively expensive, limiting the quantity of data available. This project proposes a novel methodology for water level measurement by introducing geometric solutions that utilize prevalent sensors found in smart devices. The introduced approach creates a distinct opportunity for a low-cost camera-based embedded system that will measure water levels and share surveys to power environmental research and decision making. In addition to the water level measurement, the presence of the camera enables further usage scenarios such as recognizing objects (e.g. debris, tree, human, boat) on the water surface using deep learning, and supplying annotated data for hydrological processes including surface water modeling, and streamflow estimation.

Proposed framework includes a stand-alone water level measurement unit and a web-based application for data retrieval and management. Measurement unity will consist of a Raspberry Pi, a camera, a servomotor, and several prevalent smartphone sensors including accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and GPS sensor. It will employ two different geometrical water level estimation algorithms. These algorithms depend on either the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) or a known structure (e.g. building, bridge) that intersects with the water body. The hardware of the measurement unit will be capable to provide precise sensor measurements of the camera, rotate the camera to aim the digitally-calculated target, and transmit the encoded measurements and surveys to a secure server via cellular network. The software of the unit will be capable to do image processing to recognize the water-land or water-structure intersection, readjust the camera to track the intersection by calculating the rotational degrees needed using the change in readings of the inertial measurement unit (IMU), communicating with an outside server to query the DEM data or known structures by providing the geolocation and the orientation as parameters, performing algorithm-based mathematical calculations to do edge computing in case of limited internet bandwidth, and encoding and transmitting the measurements results and the survey metadata to a centralized server for visualization and management. Hence, the objectives of the project are listed.

The scope of this project as part of this proposal is to develop, deploy, and benchmark the proposed framework for water level measurement for rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. For future directions, the framework makes way for further utilization and research and enables the development of next-generation water monitoring techniques. An example future work is to use deep neural networks to detect and record the objects (e.g. human, boat, tree) on the water surface as a security measure. The potential availability of such a vast network of camera and IMU equipped smart devices also provides the unique opportunity to advance the research on particle image velocimetry (PIV) and water discharge estimation.

Sponsor: Dr. Ibrahim Demir


Palate Pal

Hannah Drkulec, Jennifer Mount, Ally Carey, Taylor Deutsch and Jason Zych

Our idea is to create an assisted eating device for patients with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), which describes a condition in which the patients have limited extremity mobility. This condition affects one in three thousand live births. The case that brought this problem to our attention involves a seven year old patient struggling with eating independence due to joint contractures of her upper extremities. Our design will likely be a mechanical device that uses the mobility of the patient’s lower extremities and or torso to bring food from the plate to her mouth. The intention is to design a product that will allow for the selection of food being eaten and for complete eating independence. We are still in the brainstorming phase of production, so the main design is subject to change, but currently we are thinking of creating a stand-alone device that can accomplish this task.

Sponsor: Dr. Colleen Bringman


Sled-Pull Power Optimization for Athletes

Ethan Patterson, Nicholas A Seliga, Quenton I Boddie, Isabella Solaroli and Robert T Agnew

The problem is that athletes and coaches currently have no way of knowing what loads to train athletes at for improving power output from pulling-sleds. This results in wasted time for both parties as some athletes will train beyond their limits, while others won’t push themselves enough. We are designing a device to measure the force an athlete creates during this exercise and then this data will be analyzed to output the optimal training loads to train at to increase power output.

Sponsor: Dr. Colleen Bringman


The Attentive Scooper

Ben Rauenbuehler, Annice Najafi, Hunter Duncan and Xiaoyue Yu

1 in 7 U.S. kids has a developmental disability. Children with developmental disabilities have difficulties learning table manners and depend on their caretakers for eating, potentially resulting in overeating, malnutrition and social problems. Research has shown that the most effective method of teaching table manners to children with developmental disabilities is through positive reinforcement with time delay. Our devices include a handle that eating utensils can be inserted. Inside this handle is an accelerometer (to capture the motion of scooping) accompanied by lights, a vibration mechanism and speakers. Once the child scoops, the positive stimuli will be triggered (flashing lights, fun sounds and vibration). The stimuli will be adjustable in terms of intensity of light and vibration and customizable in terms of sound.

Sponsor: Dr. Colleen Bringman


Throat and Airway Simulator

Andrew Solsrud, Caleb Eichelberger, Alex Peebles, Sawyer Goetz and Mitchell Schaffer

A way to improve endoscopic laryngeal learning experiences among ENT residents in order to increase proficiency in the surgical environment. We think that the best way to accomplish this is to design a throat simulator that is compatible with porcine trachea specimens. This will allow for ENT residents to accurately and effectively train for these procedures.

Sponsor: Dr. Sohit Kanotra



Victoria Black, Russell Martin, Bailey Rambo, Chen Zhao and Roger Luo

This idea is a mobility device for pediatric Canavan’s disease patients. Canavan’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes an inability to walk, crawl, or talk. We are partnering with UnityPoint Health and Mackinzie Ahlers MS, OTR/L, Natalia Mitchell PT DPT to design a device that will benefit one specific two-year-old who is affected with Canavan’s Disease; however this device will potentially be beneficial to many other children with Canavan’s disease or similar conditions. This device will allow children to safely explore their environment with independence while also offering postural support using straps and head support. The device will be motorized and switch operated with an ultrasound sensor to detect obstacles and stop to eliminate shock for the patient. This device will have a modular switch, as patient mobility and strength varies by day, so the switch can be placed based on where the patient is feeling the strongest. The device will also have a manual override option, allowing caretakers to stop the car at any point. The operation time will be limited, so the patient cannot move too far away.

Sponsors: Dr. Colleen Bringman and Dr. Seth Dillard


XY-See Reading Table

Faith Meyer, Zoey Slettehaugh, Lukas Brandner, Shawn Franken and Rachel Cavett

Context: Mobile devices have valuable applications targeted at helping those with reduced central vision acuity read more efficiently. Such applications include magnification, improved contrast, lighting, and other key features.

Idea: Create a device which would not only make portable aids such as mobile device applications more functional by providing stability, but also allow the user to scroll the text along the screen as opposed to continuously having to reorient their eyes as they move along the page. This can be accomplished with a simple mobile device stand accompanied by a detachable, compact x-y table. The stand provides stability for the mobile device camera, and the x-y table would allow the user to place a paper, book, etc. on it and smoothly move the text through the scope of the mobile device camera, making reading easier.

Sponsor: Dr. Colleen Bringman