“Medical Engineering” uses CAD and 3d-printing to fix a man’s aorta

Tal Golesworthy has a medical condition where his aorta, the biggest artery in one’s body, lacks elasticity and swells with pressure—eventually leading to a lethal rupture. The only way to treat the problem, once it gets advanced enough, is to surgically remove the aorta and implant a plastic replacement.

This funny looking thing is a 3d-printed CAD model of Tal's aorta. They used this to construct his support wrapping, which he named 'exovasc.'

At least, that was the only surgical solution. Tal really didn’t want to spend the rest of his life taking an anti-coagulant medicine called Warfarin (which was originally made to be rat poison, and causes a whole slew of medical problems). But what was a boiler engineer to do? His expertise was plumbing.

He applied a simple plumbing concept to his complex medical problem: when certain parts of piping start to swell, you wrap tape around the outside (rather than replacing the pipe) to support it and prevent further swelling.

Check out this captivating TEDx talk, where Tal discusses how he worked with both doctors and engineers to implement his clever idea.

When working with people in other fields, the greatest potential danger lies in
mis-communication. He briefly mentions it when he talks about his mirrored aorta.

A Thunderdome of Engineering in Hillsboro, Part 1: Why 3D Printers Are Important For You

Continued in part 2…


We recently had a chance to tour Hillsboro High School’s engineering department, and were inspired by what we saw. Today we’re going to give you a tour of one Oregon high school whose engineering program is top-notch, and we’ll also show you some steps you can take to improve your own high school’s engineering program at the end of this post.

This is one of the 3D printers, designed by MakerBot, that students can use to prototype in Mr. Domes's classes.

Engineering today involves a lot of things, but at its core it’s still all about creating. Creating solutions to problems. And that usually involves fabricating some sort of tool or device.

The guts of the HH 3D printers. Students were involved in the construction and calibration, too. Awesome.

Hillsboro High has one particular instructor named Don Domes. He’s CTE certified as a career and technical educator, and has real industry experience as an engineer, and he’s got a passion for passing his knowledge on to his students.

Mr. Domes is a believer of the Fab Lab concept, the idea that every engineer (household, even) should have its own fabrication lab. And what’s more, that it’s possible to make this a reality.

In the past, fabrication equipment has been extremely expensive and could host today’s equivalent of well over $100,000. But now computers, used to design, are everywhere; printers, used to create real blueprints and designs, are cheaper than the ink they use; and 3D printers, used for rapid 3D prototyping, are becoming cheap enough for schools to afford.

When your teacher's paper-cutter handle breaks, you can 3D print a new one for extra credit.

We love talking about 3D printers, by the way.

What’s the point of any of this? Well, his students design using CAD programs just like any other engineering classes might. But designing something on a 2D computer screen is just a little different from actually holding the thing you designed. And when you have the design, it doesn’t do anything, does it?

A chess set made by a HH student.

The beauty of having a 3D printer is that students in Mr. Domes’s classes can design and actually fabricate whatever they want. And the requirements aren’t very strict. After making a few set designs to learn the ropes, students can make whatever they choose so long as the designs are decently complex and can solve a problem, or at least be reasonably awesome. Students have made tools for geometry class (solves a problem), a companion cube (awesome),  guitar picks (both) and, as you can see, even chess sets.

One of the coolest legit engineering devices we saw there were Geneva drives, a gear-like system that translates constant rotation into intermittent rotation, like what you see in clocks (that’s what they were invented for, by the way). Check it out:

A student-made-and-3D-printed Geneva drive, made to be compatible with LEGOs.

This is all pretty exciting stuff, but just like designing something is pointless without being able to touch it, seeing this is pointless without being able to make it happen for you too. There are a couple hard facts you’re going to have to face, but there are solutions for them.

First, you’ll have to convince your engineering or science teacher that something like this is going to be useful. If your school has a CAD class, this shouldn’t be hard—because a 3D printer is the next logical step in improving a CAD class. But if you don’t, the first step is convincing your engineering or science teacher that CAD is important enough to teach. There’s a lot of stuff on the internet about how important CAD is, so do some research.

Second, you’ll have to convince your teacher it’s worth the money. Money can be hard to come by from a school, as a lot of schools are stingy with their money. Talk to your teacher about applying for a grant to fund the upgrade—especially if you’re simultaneously convincing them to start teaching CAD. In fact, Mr. Domes does just this. He has a history of getting grants and donations to get/keep his school’s engineering classes funded. There are lots of people willing to financially help schools out—you’ve just got to ask, or get a teacher to.

Just remember this: Hillsboro High has a great teacher, who’s playing a key role in driving their engineering program forward. You might be lucky enough to have the same kind of teacher, but you also might not. If your school doesn’t have a teacher acting as that force, you have to be the driving force of the change you want to see.

Continued in Part 2…

Read on:

Computer Science As Non-Magic: Computer Science As A Future.

There are plenty of local opportunities for you to learn and grow in the computer science world, and they’re generally pretty awesome.

Most recently we had the Willamette University – TechStart High School Programming Contest (link to the contest web page, and to a blog entry about it by the guy who organizes it all). The winners were from McMinnville high school (link to the school website; check their news), with runners up from Sherwood and Westview high schools. The novice award went to team PHRED from Philomath HS.

And coming up is OGPC: The Oregon Game Project ChallengeRegistration for OGPC is still opened until March 23rd, so whip up a team and get involved!

A lot of people view programming as magic problem solving. We want to dissuade such beliefs: programming is not magic. It’s the tenacious process of turning every problem into a solvable puzzle, and then solving it. And we believe that the best way to learn how to program is by starting with one of these contests.

These events are pretty cool, but it’s even cooler to see where computer science skills can take you in the future:

A user posted a cool video on our Facebook page, showing DARPA’s most recent robotics endeavors: the headless Cheetah robot (looks more like an aluminium Zergling to us). Obviously something like this takes a lot of work to engineer and design, but arguably the most crucial part is the programming behind it. Sensors must detect things like the robots speed and center of gravity, and the computer must coordinate the actuators which move the legs.

3d printing is getting to be such a big thing, that even the Raspberry Pi has its own 3d-printable case, free-to-download. 3d printers have been engineered by a combined effort of several types of engineers (manufacturing, materials and electrical engineers, for example) as well as computer scientists who program the applications they use.

What we’re getting at is that computer science is a big deal. Like we talked about in our interview with an Oregon computer scientist, it’s because understanding computer science is the only way you’ll be able to keep up with the explosion of technology. Even if you don’t want to become a programmer, it’s an essential subject for you to be familiar with.


Read on:

Link Dump 2-24

We’ll keep quiet today, and instead we’ll just provide you with some of the coolest engineering and computer science links on the net today!

“Physibles” make their way into schools: 3d printing.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 3d printing is going to catch on, big time. In the near future, we think that 3d printers are going to start popping up in classrooms as a learning aid for engineering students learning CAD.

These guys, Riley and Vernon, got a company called 3DSystems to donate a 3D printer to their middle school.

Evidence of this is that The Pirate Bay, a famous piracy site, recently added a new category for files being shared called “physibles,” files which can be 3d-printed (things like keyboard keys, dice, paper clips or just about anything you can think of). We definitely don’t think piracy is good (it’s illegal!) but we definitely think it means something when the world’s biggest piracy website thinks physibles are a big enough deal to have their own category.

Here’s the skinny on what we think: a lot of schools don’t have the money to make big investments, but they’re still expected to invest in your education. Engineers wind up making a lot of money, but sometimes learning engineering can cost a lot (especially if you want to learn something like 3d printing with CAD). So if you want to wind up being an engineer, you’ve got to be really resourceful in your education, to make up for how expensive it can be.

Sometimes that includes things like convincing your teacher to apply for a grant, so you can start a robotics or programming team.

One of Riley's early exposures to the power of 3d printing.

For 3d printing, that means finding a good, not-too-small-but-not-too-big 3d printing company, and writing them a really good letter to ask for a small donation. That small donation would be a 3d printer of theirs. Talk to your science teacher and get them in on it. Have them write the company as well. Have them come up with ideas to make the idea sound more appealing to the company (Who would give away a 3d printer without a little something in return? How about good press?)

This is what we think you need to do. Imagine being able to print your own custom LEGO parts. Imagine being able to customize or mod just about anything. It’s the future of independent engineering, which means it may well be your future.

Read on:

Push to get your school a 3D Printer

3D printing is one of the new cool things out there, and now that it’s gaining steam people are finding a lot of uses for the technology.

One of those uses is in engineering. Since engineers create solutions to problems, they usually have to make or modify something to make that solution work. Those problems are unique a lot of the time, which means you need a one-of-a-kind part to make it work.

To give you an example: we recently talked about one unique problem that took a one-of-a-kind part in its solution. Instances like this are common.

The RepRap Mendel, a 3D printer that can build copies of itself.

As a lot of high-school-level engineers know, you do a lot of work with CAD and similar programs–doing 3D modeling to create. Now imagine if you could take your designs to the next level by printing them out. Imagine if you could design parts for your trebuchet project, which many high school engineering classes have (or at least some project like it).

Take that idea and the fact that some 3D printers are as cheap as $1400–which might sound like a lot for one person, but isn’t so much for an entire school’s entire science department to buy and share–and you’ve got yourself a feasible proposal to take to your school.

Talk to your science teachers, your folks, your science and engineering classmates–anyone who might agree and could somehow help–and get your school a 3D printer. One design that fits the bill for education is the RepRap Mendel, an open-design 3D printer which is designed to be affordable, self-replicating, and pretty easy to use.

Read on: