2024 Penn Bioengineering Senior Design Projects Advance to Interdepartmental Competition

On April 17, 2024, the Department of Bioengineering held its annual Bioengineering (BE) Senior Design Presentations in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, followed by a Design Expo in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace.

A panel of expert and alumni judges chose 3 teams to advance to the School-wide, interdepartmental competition, to be held on May 3, 2024.

Team ADONA: Jude Barakat, Allison Elliott, Daniel Ghaderi, Aditi Ghalsasi, Taehwan Kim

ADONA (A Device for the Assisted Detection of Neonatal Asphyxia)

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a condition that arises from inadequate oxygen delivery or blood flow to the brain around the time of birth, resulting in long-term neurological damage. This birth complication is responsible for up to 23% of neonatal deaths worldwide. While effective treatments exist, current diagnostic methods require specialized neurologists to analyze an infant’s electroencephalography (EEG) signal, requiring significant time and labor. In areas where such resources and specialized training are even scarcer, the challenges are even more pronounced, leading to delayed or lack of treatment, and poorer patient outcomes. The Assisted Detection of Neonatal Asphyxia (ADONA) device is a non-invasive screening tool that streamlines the detection of HIE. ADONA is an EEG helmet that collects, wirelessly transmits, and automatically classifies EEG data using a proprietary machine learning algorithm in under two minutes. Our device is low-cost, automated, user-friendly, and maintains the accuracy and reliability of a trained neurologist. Our classification algorithm was trained using 1100 hours of annotated clinical data and achieved >85% specificity and >90% sensitivity on an independent 200 hour dataset. Our device is now produced in Agilus 30, a flexible and tear resistant material, that reduces form factor and ensures regulatory compliance. For our final prototype, we hope to improve electrode contact and integrate software with clinical requirements. Our hope is that ADONA will turn the promise of a safer birth into a reality, ensuring instant peace of mind and equitable access to healthcare, for every child and their families.

Team Epilog: Rohan Chhaya, Carly Flynn, Elena Grajales, Priya Shah, Dori Xu

Epilog

To address the critical need for effective, at-home seizure monitoring in pediatric neurology, particularly for Status Epilepticus (SE), our team developed Epilog: a rapid-application electroencephalography (EEG) headband. SE is a medical emergency characterized by prolonged or successive seizures and often presents with symptoms too subtle to notice or easily misinterpreted as post-convulsive fatigue. This leads to delayed treatment and increased risks of neurological damage and high mortality. Current seizure detection technologies are primarily based on motion or full-head EEG, rendering them ineffective at detecting SE and impractical for at-home use in emergency scenarios, respectively. Our device is designed to be applied rapidly during the comedown of a convulsive seizure, collect EEG data, and feed it into our custom machine learning algorithm. The algorithm processes this data in real-time and alerts caregivers if the child remains in SE, thereby facilitating immediate medical decision-making. Currently, Epilog maintains a specificity of 0.88 and sensitivity of 0.95, delivering decisions within 15 seconds post-seizure. We have demonstrated clean EEG signal acquisition from eight standard electrode placements and bluetooth data transmission from eight channels with minimal delay. Our headband incorporates all necessary electrodes and adjustable positioning of the electrodes for different head sizes. Our unique gel case facilitates rapid electrode gelation in less than 10 seconds. Our most immediate goals are validating our fully integrated device and improving features that allow for robust, long-term use of Epilog. Epilog promises not just data, but peace of mind, and empowering caregivers to make informed life-saving decisions.

Team NG-LOOP: Katherine Han, Jeffrey Huang, Dahin Song, Stephanie Yoon

NG-LOOP

Nasogastric (NG) tube dislodgement occurs when the feeding tube tip becomes significantly displaced from its intended position in the stomach, causing fatal consequences such as aspiration pneumonia. Compared to the 50% dislodgement rate in the general patient population, infant patients are particularly affected ( >60%) due to their miniature anatomy and tendency to unknowingly tug on uncomfortable tubes. Our solution, the Nasogastric Lightweight Observation and Oversight Product (NG-LOOP) provides comprehensive protection from NG tube dislodgement. Physical stabilization is combined with sensor feedback to detect and manage downstream complications of tube dislodgement. The lightweight external bridle, printed with biocompatible Accura 25 and coated with hydrocolloid dressing for comfort and grip, can prevent dislodgement 100% of the time given a tonic force of 200g. The sensor feedback system uses a DRV5055 linear hall effect sensor with a preset difference threshold, coupled with an SMS alert and smart plug inactivation of the feeding pump. A sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 100% in dislodgement detection was achieved under various conditions, with all feedback mechanisms being initiated in response to 100% of threshold triggers. Future steps involve integration with hospital-grade feeding pumps, improving the user interface, and incorporating more sizes for diverse age inclusivity.

Photos courtesy of Afraah Shamim, Coordinator of Educational Laboratories in the Penn BE Labs. View more photos on the Penn BE Labs Instagram.

Senior Design (BE 4950 & 4960) is a two-semester capstone course taught by David Meaney, Solomon R. Pollack Professor in Bioengineering and Senior Associate Dean of Penn Engineering, Erin Berlew, Research Scientist in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Lecturer in Bioengineering, and Dayo Adewole, Postdoctoral Fellow of Otorhinolaryngology (Head and Neck Surgery) in the Perelman School of Medicine. Read more stories featuring Senior Design in the BE Blog.

2023 PIP-Winning Team Sonura: Where Are They Now?

Members of Team Sonura: Tifara Boyce, Gabriela Cano, Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, & Caroline Magro (credit: Penn BE Labs)

In April 2023, three President’s Prize-winning teams were selected from an application pool of 76 to develop post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each project received $100,000 and a $50,000 living stipend per team member.

The winning projects include Sonura, the winner of the President’s Innovation Prize (PIP), who are working to improve infant development by reducing harsh noise exposure in neonatal intensive care units. To accomplish this, they’ve developed a noise-shielding beanie that can also relay audio messages from parents.

Sonura, a bioengineering quintet, developed a beanie that shields newborns from the harsh noise environments present in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs)—a known threat to infant wellbeing—and also supports cognitive development by relaying audio messages from their parents.

Since graduating from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the team of Tifara Boyce, Gabriela Cano, Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, and Caroline Magro, has collaborated with more than 50 NICU teams nationwide. They have been helped by the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), which shares Sonura’s goal of reducing NICU noise. “Infant development is at the center of all activities within the HUP ICN,” note Daltoso and Ishiwari. “Even at the most granular level, like how each trash can has a sign urging you to shut it quietly, commitment to care is evident, a core tenet we strive to embody as we continue to grow.” 

An initial challenge for the team was the inability to access the NICU, crucial for understanding how the beanie integrates with existing workflows. Collaboration with the HUP clinical team was key, as feedback from a range of NICU professionals has helped them refine their prototype.

In the past year, the team has participated in the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab and the Venture Initiation Program at Penn’s Venture Lab, and received funding from the Pennsylvania Pediatric Device Consortium. “These experiences have greatly expanded our perspective,” Cano says.

With regular communication with mentors from Penn Engineering and physicians from HUP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and other institutes, Sonura is looking ahead as they approach the milestone of completing the FDA’s regulatory clearance process within the year. They will begin piloting their beanie with the backing of NICU teams, further contributing to neonatal care.

Read the full story and watch a video about Sonura’s progress in Penn Today.

Read more stories featuring Sonura in the BE Blog.

Safe and Sound: Sonura Supports Newborn Development by Sequestering Disruptive Noise

by Nathi Magubane

Recipients of the 2023 President’s Innovation Prize, team Sonura, five bioengineering graduates from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, have created a device that filters out disruptive environmental noises for infants in neonatal intensive care units. Their beanie offers protection and fosters parental connection to newborns while also supporting their development.

Machines beeping and whirring in a rhythmic chorus, the droning hum of medical equipment, and the bustles of busy health care providers are the familiar sounds of an extended stay at a hospital. This cacophony can create a sense of urgency for medical professionals as they move about with focused determination, closely monitoring their patients, but for infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) this constant noise can be overwhelming and developmentally detrimental.

Enter Tifara Boyce, from New York City; Gabriela Cano, from Lawrenceville, New Jersey; Gabriella Daltoso, from Boise, Idaho; Sophie Ishiwari, from Chicago, and Caroline Magro, from Alexandria, Virginia, bioengineering graduates from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, who have created the Sonura Beanie. Their device filters out harmful noises for NICU infants while supporting cognitive and socioemotional development by allowing parents to send voice messages to their newborns.

The Sonura team members are recipients of the 2023 President’s Innovation Prize, which includes an award of $100,000 and an additional $50,000 living stipend per team member. The recent graduates will spend the year developing their product.

“The Penn engineers behind Sonura are determined to make a difference in the world,” says President Liz Magill. “They identified a substantial medical challenge that affects many parents and their newborn children. With the guidance of their mentors, they are taking key steps to address it and in doing so are improving the developmental prospects for children in the NICU. I am proud the University is able to support their important work.”

The Sonura Beanie’s creation began in the Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory and Bio-MakerSpace as a part of the Bioengineering Senior Design class project.

Prototype of the Sonura Beanie. (Image: Courtesy of the Sonura team)

She was particularly struck by the noisiness of the environment and considered the neurodevelopmental outcomes that may arise following long-term exposure to the harsh sounds at a critical developmental stage for infants. This concern prompted Magro to consult her team about potential solutions.

“I was really eager to tackle this problem because it bears some personal significance to me,” says Cano, who works on the device’s mobile application. “My sister was a NICU baby who was two months premature, so, when Caroline and I started talking about the issues a disruptive environment could cause, it seemed like the pieces of a puzzle started to come together.”

Read the full story in Penn Today.

Penn Medicine and Independence Blue Cross Eliminate Preapprovals for Imaging Tests

Brian Litt, MD

Brian Litt, Professor in Bioengineering in Penn Engineering and in Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine, spoke to Neurology Today about the advances in technology for detecting and forecasting seizures.

The Litt Lab for Translational Neuroengineering translates neuroengineering research directly into patient care, focusing on epilepsy and a variety of research initiatives and clinical applications.

“Dr. Litt’s group is working with one of a number of startups developing ‘dry’ electrode headsets for home EEG monitoring. ‘They are still experimental, but they’re getting better, and I’m really optimistic about the possibilities there.'”

Read “How Detecting, Identifying and Forecasting Seizures Has Evolved” in Neurology Today.

Read more stories featuring Litt in the BE Blog.

2023 Senior Design Project Competition Winners Announced

Each year, Penn Engineering’s seniors present their Senior Design projects, a year-long effort that challenges them to test and develop solutions to real-world problems, to their individual departments. The top three projects from each department go on to compete in the annual Senior Design Competition, sponsored by the Engineering Alumni Society, which involves pitching projects to a panel of judges who evaluate their potential in the market.

We are proud that two of the four awards went to Penn Bioengineering teams!

This year’s panel included over forty judges, and each winning team received a $2,000 prize, generously sponsored by Penn Engineering alumnus Kerry Wisnosky.

Congratulations to all of the 2023 participants and winners!

Technology & Innovation Award

This award recognized the team whose project represents the highest and best use of technology and innovation to leverage engineering principles.

Team BAMBI poses with Dean Vijay Kumar.

Winner: Team BAMBI
Department: Bioengineering
Team Members: Ria Dawar, Pallavi Jonnalagadda, Jessica Ling, Grace Qian
Mentor: Erin Anderson
Instructors: Erin Berlew, Sevile Mannickarottu, and David Meaney
Abstract: BAMBI (Biointelligent Apnea Monitor for Bradycardia-Prone Infants) is a tripartite system that leverages machine learning and automated mechanical stimulation to detect and treat apnea of prematurity in the NICU.

Judges’ Choice Award

Team StablEyes poses with Dean Vijay Kumar.This award recognizes the group whose all-around presentation captures the best of the senior design program’s different facets:  ideation, scope of project, team problem-solving, execution and presentation.

Winner: Team StablEyes
Department: Bioengineering
Team Members: Ella Atsavapranee, Jake Becker, Ruoming Fan, Savan Patel
Mentor: Erin Anderson, Dr. Drew Scoles and Dr. Tomas Aleman (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Medicine)
Instructors: Erin Berlew, Sevile Mannickarottu, and David Meaney
Abstract: StablEyes consists of a stabilization mount that provides fine, motorized control of the handheld OCT to improve ease of use for physicians and machine learning-based software to aid in diagnosis from retinal images.

Read the full list of SEAS Senior Design Competition Award winners in Penn Engineering Today.

Read more about all the Class of 2023 Penn Bioengineering Senior Design Teams in the Penn BE Labs website.

Penn Bioengineering Senior Design Expo Featured in Technical.ly Philly

Members of Team Sonura: Tifara Boyce, Gabriela Cano, Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, & Caroline Magro (credit: Penn BE Labs)

Technical.ly Philly journalist Sarah Huffman recently paid another visit to Penn Bioengineering’s George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace, this time for the 2023 Senior Design Expo. Following the annual Senior Design presentations held in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, in which graduating fourth-year undergraduates in Bioengineering presented their final capstone projects, the Expo offered an opportunity for the teams to do live demonstrations (or demos) for the department’s internal competition judges and the wider BE community.

“In the course of the day, students presented the challenge they were aiming to solve and the technical details of their solution. After, demonstrations sought to find if the devices really worked.

‘[It’s] looking at the device as a whole, because quite frankly, you can say whatever you want at a presentation, does it really work,’ said [BE Labs Director Sevile] Mannickarottu. ‘You can make it look pretty, “but does it work?” is the big question.'”

Read “At Penn’s Senior Design Expo, students aimed to solve healthcare issues with tech devices” in Technical.ly Philly.

To learn more about the 2023 Senior Design projects, including pitch videos, abstracts, full presentations and awards, visit the Penn BE Labs Website.

Read about Technical.ly’s first visit to the Penn BE Labs here.

Penn Bioengineering Senior Design Team “Sonura” Wins 2023 President’s Innovation Prize

Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce pose on College Green.
Sonura

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill announced on April 21, the recipients of the 2023 President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes.

Awarded annually, the Prizes empower Penn students to design and undertake post-graduation projects that make a positive, lasting difference in the world. Each Prize-winning project will receive $100,000, as well as a $50,000 living stipend per team member. The Prizes are the largest of their kind in higher education. All Prize recipients collaborate with a Penn faculty mentor.

A team of fourth-year Bioengineering majors, Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce, have received the President’s Innovation Prize for their project, Sonura.

“This year’s President’s Engagement and Innovation Prize recipients are fueled by a desire to make a difference—in their community, across the country, and around the world,” Magill said. “Communities for Childbirth, Act First, and Sonura embody an inspiring blend of passion and purpose. They are addressing consequential challenges with compelling solutions, and their dedication and smarts are exemplary. I congratulate them and wish them success as they launch and grow their ventures.”

The 2023 Prize recipients—selected from an applicant pool of 76—will spend the next year implementing the projects:

Gabriella Daltoso, Sophie Ishiwari, Gabriela Cano, Caroline Amanda Magro, and Tifara Eliana Boyce for Sonura: Daltoso, from Boise, Idaho; Ishiwari, from Chicago; Cano, from Lawrenceville, New Jersey; Magro, from Alexandria, Virginia; and Boyce, from Jamaica, Queens, New York, are bioengineering majors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Their startup, Sonura, is developing a beanie that promotes the cognitive and socioemotional development of newborns in the NICU by protecting them from the auditory hazards of their environments while fostering parental connection. The Sonura Beanie is composed of a frequency-dependent filter and a mobile application. The Sonura team is mentored by Brian Halak, a lecturer in the Engineering Entrepreneurship program. Sonura was developed in Penn’s Stephenson Foundation Bio-MakerSpace and was part of their Bioengineering Senior Design class.

To learn more about the 2023 President’s Engagement and Innovation Prizes, visit Penn Today.

2023 Undergraduate Awards for Bioengineering Students

Congratulations to the Bioengineering student recipients of undergraduate awards from the School of Engineering and Applied Science  for the 2022-2023 academic year. These  awards are given annually by the school and the department in recognition of outstanding scholarship and service. Read the full list of Bioengineering undergraduate award winners below.

The Wolf-Hallac Award: Sofia Mouchtaris. This award was established in October 2000 to recognize the graduating female senior from across Penn Engineering’s departments who is seen as a role model, has achieved a high GPA (in the top 10% of their class), and who has demonstrated a commitment to school and/or community.

The Management and Technology Scholarship Award: Savan Patel. This prize is awarded by the SEAS faculty to that member of the senior class in the Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Program who has created an innovative system and attained high scholastic achievement.

The Hugo Otto Wolf Memorial Prize: Joshua Freedman & Le He. This prize is awarded to one or more members of each department’s senior class, distinguishing students who meet with great approval of the professors at large through “thoroughness and originality” in their work.

The Herman P. Schwan Award: Laila Norford. This department award honors a graduating senior who demonstrates the “highest standards of scholarship and academic achievement.”

Exceptional Service Awards recognize students for their outstanding service to the University and their larger communities: Dylan Hurok, Julia Lottman, Caroline Magro & Grace Qian.

The Student Leadership Award: Moses Zeidan. This award is given annually to a student in Bioengineering who has demonstrated, through a combination of academic performance, service, leadership, and personal qualities, that they will be a credit to the Department, the School, and the University.

Additionally, the Bioengineering Department  also presents a single lab group with the Albert Giandomenico Award which reflects their “teamwork, leadership, creativity, and knowledge applied to discovery-based learning in the laboratory.” This year’s group consists of Ella Atsavapranee, Jake Becker, Ruoming Fan & Savan Patel, aka Team StablEyes.

The awardees above were recognized at the annual Penn Engineering Awards Ceremony held Wednesday, March 29, 2023 in the Harrison Auditorium, Penn Museum.

Three Bioengineering Senior Design teams were chosen for recognition in the Bioengineering Senior Design Competition:

Team BAMBI: Ria Dawar, Pallavi Jonnalagadda, Jessica Ling, & Grace Qian. BAMBI (Biointelligent Apnea Monitor for Bradycardia-Prone Infants) is a tripartite system that leverages machine learning and automated mechanical stimulation to detect and treat apnea of prematurity in the NICU.

Team StablEyes: Ella Atsavapranee, Jake Becker, Ruoming Fan, & Savan Patel. StablEyes consists of a stabilization mount that provides fine, motorized control of the handheld OCT to improve ease of use for physicians and machine learning-based software to aid in diagnosis from retinal images.

Team inSPIRE: Jackson Dooley, Joshua Freedman,Yi-An Hsieh, Isabella Mirro, & Parth Mody. inSPIRE is the first smart incentive spirometer, used post-operatively to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs associated with complications and readmissions.

These teams will compete in the Penn Engineering Senior Design Competition on Friday, April 28, 2023.

Research for these projects was conducted in the George H. Stephenson Foundation Education Laboratory & Bio-Maker Space. Learn about all the 2023 Senior Design projects and view their final presentations on the Stephenson Bio-MakerSpace website here.

A full list of Penn Engineering award descriptions and recipients can be found here.

Senior Design Team “StablEyes” Uses 3D Printing to Simplify Retinal Imaging

A team of Penn Bioengineering Senior Design students was featured as the 3D print of the week by the Penn Biomedical Library’s Biomeditations blog.

The StablEyes team. From left to right, Jake Becker (BE ’23), Ruoming Fan (BE ’23), Ella Atsavapranee (BE ’23), and Savan Patel (M&T ’23).

Fourth-year undergraduate students Ella Atsavapranee, Jake Becker, Ruoming Fan, and Savan Patel created StablEyes, “a stabilization mount that provides fine, motorized control of the handheld OCT to improve ease of use for physicians and machine learning-based software to aid in diagnosis from retinal images.” The team made use of 3D printing services, laboratory space, and expertise across Penn’s campus to create their innovative design, including the Bollinger Digital Fabrication Lab in the Holman Biotech Commons, the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and the George H. Stephenson Foundation Educational Laboratory & Bio-MakerSpace (aka the Penn BE Labs).

Read “Featured 3D Print: Simplifying Retinal Imaging with StablEyes” by Lexi Voss in Biomeditations.

Novel Tools for the Treatment and Diagnosis of Epilepsy

by Nathi Magubane

A neurologist examines an encephalogram of a patient’s brain.
Throughout his career, Brian Litt has fabricated tools that support international collaboration, produced findings that have led to significant breakthroughs, and mentored the next generation of researchers tackling neurological disorders. (Image: iStock Photo/Alona Siniehina)

When Brian Litt of the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science began treating patients as a neurologist, he found that the therapies and treatments for epilepsy were mostly reliant on traditional pharmacological interventions, which had limited success in changing the course of the disease.

People with epilepsy are often prescribed anti-seizure medications, and, while they are effective for many, about 30% of patients still continue to experience seizures. Litt sought new ways to offer patients better treatment options by investigating a class of devices that electronically stimulate cells in the brain to modulate activity known as neurostimulation devices.

Litt’s research on implantable neurostimulation devices has led to significant breakthroughs in the technology and has broadened scientists’ understanding of the brain. This work started not long after he came to Penn in 2002 with licensing algorithms to help drive a groundbreaking device by NeuroPace, the first closed-loop, responsive neurostimulator to treat epilepsy.

Building on this work, Litt noted in 2011 how the implantable neurostimulation devices being used at the time had rigid wires that didn’t conform to the brain’s surface, and he received support from CURE Epilepsy to accelerate the development of newer, flexible wires to monitor and stimulate the brain.

“CURE is one of the epilepsy community’s most influential funding organizations,” Litt says. “Their support for my lab has been incredibly helpful in enabling the cutting-edge research that we hope will change epilepsy care for our patients.”

Read the full story in Penn Today.

Brian Litt is a Professor in Bioengineering and Neurology.

Flavia Vitale is an Assistant Professor in Neurology with a secondary appointment in Bioengineering.

Jonathan Viventi is an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering at Duke University.