Q & A with ISUR (Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research Program)

Research is a valuable, interesting, and vital part of the undergraduate experience for many Grainger engineers. The Grainger College of Engineering’s Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research Program (ISUR) exposes students to science and engineering research during the school year through the learning-by-apprenticeship model, preparing them for graduate school and STEM careers.

Students work closely with graduate student or postdoctoral mentors and faculty sponsors on research projects during the fall and spring semesters, presenting their research during the annual ISUR poster expo each spring. HCESC simulation engineer Anusha Muralidharan is one such mentor, working with four students on a project in health technology.

We spoke with Anusha and her students about their experience in the ISUR program: Kaviya Sudhir (sophomore, bioengineering), Sanjana Chunduri, Saloni Garg, and Trisha Yadav (all sophmores, computer engineering).

How and why did you get involved with ISUR?

AM: These students approached HCESC in search of a research mentor. Our director, Dr. Kesavadas, connected me with these students. Their research idea sounded very interesting, so we applied to the ISUR program.

KS, SC, SG, & TY: We found this program through The Grainger College of Engineering’s newsletters. ISUR interested us because of the opportunity to learn a variety of research topics through the seminar class, along with the mentoring we would receive as a result.

What project you are working on?

KS, SC, SG, & TY: We are working as a team of four students to develop a continuously-monitoring wearable device that screens for early-onset sepsis development. We have been working with different kinds of sensors to create a device that measures all of the symptoms that could lead to sepsis.

Has your work been impacted by COVID-19? How have you continued to make progress despite the pandemic?

KS, SC, SG, & TY: While our work was initially stunted when we moved virtually, we have been able to work with zoom meetings. Because of the ability to not meet in person, we spent first semester focusing more on literature research which is done virtually. 

How is this experience preparing you for your future careers?

KS, SC, SG, & TY: This experience is preparing us for our careers in conducting literature and technical research. Going through the customer discovery process while conducting this research will not only sharpen our analytical thinking skills but will also prepare us for whatever path we decide to pursue in the future – whether this is continuing research, going into the start-up ecosystem, or working in industry.

What’s been the most valuable part of this experience for you?

AM: This program is a wonderful opportunity to help and guide students solve interesting clinical problems. All four students are enthusiastic, motivated, and initiating contact. As a mentor my experience with the mentees has been great so far. 

KS, SC, SG, & TY: The most valuable part of this experience for us is having an amazing mentor to help us through the process. Our mentor is an experienced researcher who has helped us navigate the prototyping process. This program has also given us valuable clinical connections, which has been extremely helpful.

Thank you to Anusha, Kaviya, Sanjana, Saloni, and Trisha for sharing their experiences! Visit isur.engineering.illinois.edu to learn more about the program and see how you can get involved.

Happy Holidays and Top Ten in 2020!

We’re excited to relax this holiday season and reflect on all the growth and change that has come to HCESC in 2020, much of it fueled by COVID-19. New ways of collaboration were implemented, boundaries were broken, and our researchers proposed ideas with zeal and urgency unlike any other year. We’re proud of all their accomplishments and bring you the Top Ten achievements of HCESC in 2020, in no particular order! We wish you a safe, enjoyable, and relaxing holiday season. We look forward to 2021!

HCESC’s Top Ten of 2020

1. UVBot – We developed the UVBot, a robot that uses UV light to disinfect spaces and can be programmed and controlled over Wi-Fi. This robot was developed out of accessible, low-cost parts so that any organization can build one for under $1,000! Read more here

2. ECMO Simulator DoD Collaboration – ECMO is a procedure that’s difficult to perform yet vital to the lives of many patients. We created a simulator, funded by a Jump ARCHES research grant, using a manikin and programmable pump now being used by the U.S. Air Force En route Care Research Center within the Department of Defense. Read more here

3. Jump ARCHES COVID-19 Priority Call – In March, we sent out a call for proposals addressing COVID-19 and other public health crises. We were overwhelmed by the response from researchers spanning many disciplines. In June 2020, 18 projects were announced and awarded funding. Read more here.

4. Health Data Analytics Summit becomes COVID-19 Virtual Summit – This summit was one of the first events in our campus community to both transition to a virtual event and focus on COVID-19. We featured faculty and scientists from UIUC, OSF HealthCare System, UICOMP, UChicago, UIC, and Northwestern University, who discussed research they were doing on the emerging pandemic. View a recording here.

5. MSHT Welcomes its First Cohort – The Master of Science in Health Technology program, which we developed in conjunction with the College of Applied Health Sciences, welcomed a cohort of six students this fall! This one-year program for recent graduates and young professionals teaches skills in human factors and engineering concepts as applied to health technologies. Read more about the program here.

6. 7th Health Care Engineering Systems Symposium – We held our annual symposium virtually this past October with OSF HealthCare. Researchers from our large pool of Jump ARCHES grant recipients discussed the current state of their projects, both COVID-19 and non-COVID related. View a recording of the Symposium here.

7. Jump ARCHES Summer Internship Goes Virtual – Our popular summer internship program took on a virtual format this year, allowing interns to work from Champaign, to Abu Dhabi, to Seoul. We had ten undergraduates and one graduate student, who all successfully navigated remote research and made great strides on their projects! We look forward to seeing what they do next! Read more here.

8. HCESC Staff Help Develop Illinois RapidVent – The Illinois RapidVent, and emergency ventilator that was developed in under two weeks by an interdisciplinary team of UIUC researchers, made national news when it was announced last March. HCESC director T. Kesh Kesavadas, simulation engineers Anusha Muralidharan and Harris Nisar, and Jump Simulation Center manager Shandra Jamison all contributed to its development and success. Read more here.

9. COVID-19 Monthly Seminar Series – In September we introduced a 4-part series to showcase our Jump ARCHES COVID-19 Priority Call grant recipients and their projects. Researchers from 17 projects presented their work in four categories: testing technology, artificial intelligence, PPE, and data analytics. View the projects here.

10. Health Data Analytics Initiative Gains Steam – Our Health Data Analytics Initiative, which we have lead since 2017, received a grant from C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute earlier this year for their work in secure federated learning! Our Jump ARCHES data analytics projects have led to new grants from the National Science Foundation and Discovery Partners Institute!

Thanks for reading our Top Ten of 2020! We’re so proud of all that we’ve accomplished this year and can’t wait to update you again soon about all that’s happening at HCESC. Make sure to subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn so you don’t miss a thing!

HCESC Develops ECMO Training Simulator

This story appeared in the Fall 2020 edition of Veteran’s Affairs and Military Medicine Outlook magazine. View the story on their website here.

The extracorporeal membrane oxygenation training simulator developed by the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pictured here, consists of a manikin, cannulation tubing structure, and programmable pump.

Image Credit: Anusha Muralidharan, Health Care Engineering Systems Center at Illinois

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early March, not many people knew about the existence and necessity of a procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as ECMO. This invasive, life-saving technique artificially drains blood out, oxygenates it, and pumps it through the body to fuel red blood cells in patients who suffer from insufficient blood oxygenation levels, similar to heart lung bypass. This is often due to acute failure of the heart and/or lungs. Many COVID-19 patients are also being given ECMO as a last-resort procedure when ventilators do not provide sufficient oxygen throughout their entire body.

Connection to ECMO is a complicated procedure requiring insertion of large bore tubes into major blood vessels which are then connected to the pump. This is usually performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon, trained intensive care specialist, or team of expert surgeons, staff, and nurses, leaving little opportunity for a novice to practice on a real patient. An incision is made in the skin and tubes, or cannulae, are placed into a large vein and/or artery in the chest, neck, or groin. The blood is then pulled from the body, passed through the artificial lung, oxygenated, and cycled back into the body using the ECMO pump. Aside from COVID-19, it is often used when patients are coding and doctors need to mechanically support their heart and lungs to prevent death. Time is of the essence and stakes are often high when performing this procedure, leaving little room for error.

Dr. Jai Raman, formerly of the University of Chicago & Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and currently of the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia, expressed this concern to T. Kesh Kesavadas, director of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Inserting cannulae into patients that are critically ill can be challenging and fraught with complications due to injury of the vessels,” said Dr. Raman. “Simulation platforms for this procedure, where trainees and physicians can practice on a manikin or through virtual reality, would help. This would make access of the vasculature and insertion of the tubes effective, safe, and seamless, ultimately improving patient outcomes and survival.” They applied for a grant to study this problem.

After this conversation, Kesavadas and his team at the HCESC, whose mission is to improve patient outcomes through collaboration between engineers and physicians, began developing a simulation platform to educate students and clinicians in administering this life-saving procedure. Their ECMO Training Simulator was completed in 2018, in partnership with OSF HealthCare through the Jump Applied Research in Community Health through Engineering and Simulation endowment. It is now being used in a research study conducted by the U.S. Air Force En route Care Research Center.

“Simulation training is necessary to improve patient outcomes,” said Kesavadas. “HCESC has been a leader in developing this technology since 2014.” HCESC is a research unit housed under The Grainger College of Engineering. Their primary area of research is in simulation technology, but they also have expertise in surgical robotics, health data analytics, and smart health. HCESC also manages the Jump ARCHES endowment, which was established in 2014 as a partnership between The Grainger College of Engineering and OSF HealthCare, a large health care system serving central Illinois. The endowment promotes collaboration between engineers and physicians from OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois system. They accept project proposals twice yearly, and one Principal Investigator needs to belong to each institution to be eligible for funding.

Dr. Matthew Bramlet, pediatric cardiologist at OSF HealthCare, and Pramod Chembrammel, research scientist at HCESC, teamed up and applied for Jump ARCHES funding to create the ECMO simulator. “My background is in pediatric cardiology and advanced cardiac imagining, and I collaborated with Pramod in building a database of 3D models of various cardiac pathologies that he uses in simulations,” said Dr. Bramlet. “As health systems tighten budgets, the number of experienced ECMO providers may decrease which will increase the need for high-fidelity simulators to maintain a higher level of expertise among those performing ECMO.”

Bramlet and Chembrammel applied for a Jump ARCHES grant in 2016 and were awarded funding to create the simulator, which consists of a torso manikin and cannulation tubing structure that can be inserted into the femoral or jugular regions of the manikin, connecting to a programmable pump to drive fluid through the tubes.

Creating the ECMO simulator would not have been possible without the team and expertise at HCESC. Simulation engineer Anusha Muralidharan began working on the project in 2018, primarily working on hardware and sensors. “ECMO requires auto-monitoring of blood flow, pressure, and temperature. It’s vital that sensors are able to monitor it correctly,” said Muralidharan. This technology helps replicate difficult scenarios in ECMO by interfacing with mathematical models of human physiology, which is what drew research scientist Dr. Inki Kim to working on this project. “Design and validation of cyber-physical systems is a great challenge. The ability of this simulator to create unlimited cases of pathophysiological scenarios helps optimize learning, realism, and complexity,” said Dr. Kim.

After completing a prototype of the simulator, HCESC presented a poster of their new technology at the Military Health System Research Symposium in 2019. They connected with a surgeon from the U.S. Air Force En route Care Research Center, who was intrigued by the technology and was interested in using it to see if it was effective in training military medical personnel. Kesavadas, Muralidharan, Kim, and the rest of the team at HCESC prepared the technology for institutional use by writing manuals, manufacturing and assembling a new simulator, and packaging materials for delivery. HCESC eagerly awaits reports on usage and outcomes of the technology to further confirm the importance that simulation technology has assumed in training medical professionals.

Simulation technology has grown even more important in a time where most learning is taking place over virtual platforms. Unfortunately, this is a time where learning is most important in the medical field due to the high probability of specialized medical personnel becoming infected with COVID-19, leaving others to perform their tasks. “When ECMO is needed, you want the procedure to happen at the patient’s bedside within minutes and be available 24/7,” said Dr. Mark Johnson, director of the Intensive Care Unit at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. “To do this, you need an entire team of four to ten people that are trained in performing the procedure.” Johnson cited two local cases of COVID-19 that required the use of ECMO and anticipates performing the procedure more during a potential second wave of the pandemic. “Simulation training would be extremely important for this procedure at Carle.”

ECMO is gaining acceptance in the medical community to salvage and support patients in critical condition, but uniquely to pandemics and seasonal influenza. Dr. Abdul Siddiqui, pulmonologist at Christie Clinic in Champaign, Illinois, cited an “exponential rise” in the use of ECMO across intensive care units in the United States since the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. “ECMO requires substantial resources and frequently carries a high risk of complications and mortality. It involves complex decision-making skills in a timely manner,” said Siddiqui.

Decision-making skills and the ability to perform under pressure are best learned before a medical professional ever sets foot in an operating room or intensive care unit. “These skills can be achieved through simulation,” said Siddiqui. “They are an essential part in providing the most effective care to patients, as simulations help to understand the intricacies of the ECMO machine and its interaction with the complex physiology of a critically ill patient.” Simulation technologies are rising to fill the gap between the classroom and operating room, to minimize hesitation and increase the confidence of everyone from novices to experienced surgeons in making split-second decisions that could save lives. Simulation can be used to teach specific skills with manikins, virtual reality, or augmented reality scenarios, allowing novices to practice techniques more thoroughly prior to practicing on a simulated or actual patient.

The next phase of the ECMO simulator’s capabilities includes a virtual reality component. This image depicts a still of the virtual reality simulation featuring a mock operating room, patient, and tools to perform ECMO.

Image Credit: Harris Nisar, Health Care Engineering Systems Center at Illinois

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center plans to expand the capabilities of the ECMO simulator in the future by adding a virtual reality component. This would enable the user to situate themselves at a patient’s bedside and fully immerse themselves into a 360-degree experience. While the current state of the ECMO simulator allows the user to grasp basic components such as insertion of cannulation tubes, a virtual reality component would allow these skills to be trained amid the high-stress environment of an intensive care unit or field hospital. “With the added virtual reality component, this technology would be revolutionary in changing the way medical personnel are trained in performing ECMO,” Kesavadas said. “We’re interested in collaborating with external businesses or institutions to bring this technology to the consumer market as soon as possible, in keeping with HCESC’s core values of collaboration, partnership, and translation.” A provisional patent has already been filed.

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center was established in 2014 and has grown as a research center where engineering meets medicine in innovative ways, playing leadership roles in simulation, health data analytics, and medical robotics activities on campus at the University of Illinois. They manage the Jump Simulation Center, a 6,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art simulation and education center housed on the University of Illinois campus, established by a $10 million gift from Jump Trading. It is equipped with manikin-based simulators and virtual reality tools to meet the needs of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the first medical school in the nation focused- from the beginning- on the intersection of engineering and medicine. The Jump Simulation Center is the culmination of several years of planning; in 2014, a $62.5 million gift established the Jump ARCHES endowment, a partnership between the existing Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare in Peoria and HCESC at the University of Illinois. Through this partnership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is striving to expand simulation technology so that it is accessible, beneficial, and revolutionary in training everyone from novice medical professionals to the most experienced clinicians. The Health Care Engineering Systems Center welcomes all potential collaborations and partnerships. To collaborate or get in touch with HCESC, click here.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Develops Robot to Sterilize Spaces

Ultraviolet light is a form of radiation that can be used for sterilization and disinfection. With schools and offices beginning to meet in-person again despite little change in the rate of COVID-19 infections, easy, low-cost sterilization strategies are necessary to curb the spread of the pandemic. To meet this lofty demand, The Grainger College of Engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Health Care Engineering Systems Center has developed the UVBot: a robot that can be built out of easily accessible objects and programmed to clean spaces using UV light, which kills COVID-19.

In May 2020, HCESC director T. Kesh Kesavadas had an idea to create a low-cost robot that could be used to sterilize common areas such as classrooms, offices, and public transportation. He reached out to Helen Nguyen, professor of civil and environmental engineering and leader of the Illinois PPE team in The Grainger College of Engineering at UIUC. Nguyen, who has an extensive background in sterilization and UV light, saw the value in this idea and proposed to add a UV light to the robot. “From several studies conducted by my lab over the year, we know that commonly used UV irradiation is effective in inactivating or neutralizing SARS-CoV-2, and virus inactivation depends not only on the UV intensive but also the exposure time,” said Nguyen. “To control the exposure time precisely and to prevent humans from exposure to harmful UV light, we need something like a robot.”

While these autonomous robots do exist, they can cost as much as $50,000. “It’s a difficult position to be in,” said Kesavadas. “Many companies and schools don’t have the funds necessary to purchase a robot that can disinfect spaces, but it needs to happen if people are returning to on-site work or learning. Our robot serves as a low-cost alternative and can be made for under $1,000.”

Kesavadas and Nguyen decided to move forward on the project and put together an interdisciplinary team of engineers from HCESC, Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab, Mechanical Engineering, and Veterinary Biosciences: Yao Li, Harris Nisar, Fanxin Wang, Elbashir Araud, and Jump ARCHES summer intern Peter Chien. The result of their teamwork is the UVBot: made from a Roomba robot, UV lamp, and 3D-printed parts, the UVBot can be controlled by a mobile app over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and programmed to autonomously clean many different types of spaces. It even has the ability to record and create a library of rooms. Since UV light is dangerous to skin and eyes without protective equipment, this robot is ideal for safe cleaning since it can autonomously plan its path or be controlled remotely on a smartphone. Users would be exposed to neither UV light nor COVID-19.

The team had to navigate creating the robot through the challenges of a pandemic, where remote work and social distancing of utmost importance. Simulation engineer Harris Nisar lead the mechanical design and fabrication of the robot. “I had a great time planning the build. Of course, because of COVID, there were tremendous challenges in getting work done that required tools or facilities such as 3D printers and laser cutters, but we worked through those and learned a lot along the way.”

Intern Peter Chien, a rising junior in mechanical engineering at UIUC, was excited to work on a robotics project and learn new skills that align with his interest in health care technology. “The most fun part of this project for me was designing the hardware, where I was able to take everything I’ve learned in my coursework and apply it to something that will help in the real world,” said Chien. Fabricating the hardware involved designing mounts for the UV lamp and making sure that they fit securely onto the Roomba. Chien was also involved in designing the mobile app to control the robot over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with Li and Wang. “Designing the software has been a great learning experience; it was difficult to get started but this knowledge will definitely be useful in the future,” said Chien. The robot is able to successfully navigate rooms autonomously by using advanced sensors or controlled by a smartphone.

The UVBot promises 99% virus inactivation. The required exposure time and distance for inactivation was systematically tested using an RNA virus similar to COVID-19: Tulane virus. The team successfully conducted a test inside the Health Care Engineering Systems Center facilities to demonstrate the prototype’s feasibility as a solution for disinfection.

Kesavadas, Nguyen, and their team were passionate about creating a solution that could be created and implemented by anyone, so they are planning to publish the design, bill of material, software, and environment test data as an open access project on GitHub. Any organization with basic engineering capabilities will be able to download and reproduce the UVBot system. A provisional patent has been filed. Contact HCESC to obtain the technology here: https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/867704172.

The inventors acknowledge the support of the Jump Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and the Health Care Engineering Systems Center in The Grainger College of Engineering.

While the UVBot has proven successful, the team is still eager to improve the design with better collision detection, autonomous detection to shut off UV light when a human is detected, and software to support multiple UVBots functioning in the same network.

“It is our hope that schools and organizations feel confident enough in our work to create and utilize the UVBot for themselves,” said Kesavadas. “Reopening our country’s schools and offices safely is a huge task, and we are proud to be a small part of it.”

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides clinical immersion and fosters collaboration between engineers and physicians. HCESC designs collaborative solutions to improve health care outcomes utilizing interdisciplinary expertise in simulation technologies, smart health systems, data analytics, human factors, and medical robotics. HCESC manages the Jump Applied Research Center for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants for engineers and clinicians of every discipline to work together solving problems in healthcare. Learn more about the Health Care Engineering Systems Center and Jump ARCHES here: https://healtheng.illinois.edu/.

HCESC Assists in Developing AQovent

Leading aerospace precision engineering and manufacturing company Aequs, based in India, has collaborated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop AQovent, a medical-grade, low-cost, and mass-produced mechanical resuscitator to provide constant flow, pressure-cycled ventilation automatically to patients in respiratory distress. Aequs is manufacturing these respirators in India based on a license procured from the concept design for the Illinois RapidVent, which was released by the University of Illinois in March 2020.

“At Aequs, we stand in solidarity with the government and medical fraternity in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Aequs CEO and chairman Aravind Melligeri. “AQovent, one of Aequs’s most timely innovations, is a low-cost and indigenously developed resuscitator, operates without a power source, and is hassle-free. The design of AQovent lends itself well to a high level of scalability, enabling us to ramp up production to meet the surge in demand.”

AQovent is engineered to suit Indian conditions without compromising its functional integrity and to enable ease of manufacturing and reduce lead time, thereby making it conducive for mass production.

“We at the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at The Grainger College of Engineering feel privileged to have been catalysts for this wonderful partnership between Aequs and the University of Illinois resulting in AQovent,” said T. Kesh Kesavadas, director of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center and professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering at Illinois. “We look forward to witnessing the positive effects it is sure to have on many lives.”

AQovent operates directly on oxygen, making it ideal for deployment in on-electrified locations and ambulances due to its portability, or in situations with limited medical facilities. These single-use resuscitators are compact and easily deployable for treating patients affected by COVID-19 and other respiratory conditions.

“The launch of the AQovent and its potential for impact is inspiring. We are delighted that Aequs can leverage the Illinois RapidVent to aid in the fight against COVID-19,” said William King, leader of the Illinois RapidVent project and professor in the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering.

“We are thrilled that a design created by a team of engineers at the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering will be used to help those around the world,” added Rashid Bashir, dean of The Grainger College of Engineering. “This is exactly what our engineers had in mind during our process and we are looking forward to seeing the impact it will have in India. Thank you to Aequs.”

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center was established in 2014 and has grown as a research center where engineering meets medicine in innovative ways, playing leadership roles in simulation, health data analytics, and medical robotics activities on campus at the University of Illinois. They manage the Jump Simulation Center, a 6,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art simulation and education center housed on the University of Illinois campus, established by a $10 million gift from Jump Trading. It is equipped with manikin-based simulators and virtual reality tools to meet the needs of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the first medical school in the nation focused- from the beginning- on the intersection of engineering and medicine. The Jump Simulation Center is the culmination of several years of planning; in 2014, a $62.5 million gift established the Jump ARCHES endowment, a partnership between the existing Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare in Peoria and HCESC at the University of Illinois. Through this partnership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is striving to expand health care engineering technology so that it is accessible, beneficial, and revolutionary in training everyone from novice medical professionals to the most experienced clinicians.

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center partners with several health care organizations internationally, including in India, and welcomes all potential collaborations and partnerships. To learn more about HCESC, their simulation technology, and collaboration, please visit https://healtheng.illinois.edu/.

Jump ARCHES Endowment-funded N95 Mask Design & Proposal Update

The Health Care Engineering Systems Center (HCESC), part of The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is pleased to report on the significant progress of a proposal to develop personal protective equipment (PPE), namely N95 respirators, for local healthcare systems to help protect their staff against COVID-19. The proposal was funded by the Jump ARCHES endowment, a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois.

The team, led by principal investigator Jeremy Guest, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, has developed prototypes in collaboration with ShapeMaster, Inc. in Ogden, IL. The first quantitative fit test was performed at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL, where the team found that their N95 respirator mask prototype outperformed disposable N95 masks for fit and seal. The second round of fit testing is currently taking place at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana. After the current round of testing is finished, next steps include minor modifications to the design, additional prototype fabrication, and further testing including NIOSH filtration testing at a certified laboratory. Once final prototyping, fabrication, and testing are completed, the team will post the open-source designs online for anyone to manufacture.

“The goal of this project is to leverage the collective resources and expertise of the University of Illinois, OSF HealthCare, Carle Foundation Hospital, ShapeMaster, and other local groups to respond to the urgent and sustained need for N95 respirators,” said principal investigator Jeremy Guest. “The team is working to develop a clear, NIOSH-compliant N95 respirator that, with filter cartridge replacement, can be sanitized and reused for weeks or months.” The PPE shortage has forced many healthcare providers to reuse disposable masks that are intended for only one use. This project will both help alleviate that problem and make it easier on those who are deaf or hard of hearing to read the lips of people wearing the clear masks.

This proposal was submitted in response to the Jump ARCHES Priority Call that was announced in March to attract projects addressing COVID-19 and other pandemics. Guest’s co-primary investigators from OSF HealthCare in Peoria are Jared C. Rogers, MD, CPE, FAAFP, and John F. Kreckman, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAFP. In addition to affiliates from OSF HealthCare and the University of Illinois, the team has been working with Carle Foundation Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, ShapeMaster, Inc., and TEKMILL to develop the respirator. Jump Applied Research Center for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) is a partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and HCESC at the University of Illinois. This partnership provides direct access and competitive grants for engineers and clinicians of every discipline to work together solving problems in healthcare. Over the last four years, this endowment has funded 38 proposals totaling over $2 million to researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, and OSF HealthCare systems. Learn more about Jump ARCHES here.

Jump ARCHES Summer Internship Goes Virtual for 2020

The highlight of our summer is hosting the Jump ARCHES Summer Internship, a two-month program that provides undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Illinois with the opportunity to work with Jump ARCHES grant recipients on their projects. While we’re eagerly awaiting our return to campus in the fall, many aspects of the university continue to function online, including the Jump ARCHES Summer Internship.

At the beginning of the pandemic when we were unsure whether the internship could take place in-person, the concept of pivoting to online learning was still daunting. As companies across the globe began to cancel or shorten internship programs both for practical and financial reasons, we knew we could make a virtual internship work at HCESC.

“Being able to provide internships to students is so important, and I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that has continued to offer this experience during this uncertain time,” said Lydia Lee, Simulation Engineer at HCESC. “Although transitioning the internship to be completely virtual wasn’t easy, I’m glad that we were able to onboard all the interns successfully with projects that they are excited about!”

Out of our 11 interns, seven of them are studying Computer Engineering or Computer Science, three are studying Electrical Engineering, one is studying Mechanical Engineering, and one is studying for their MS in Library and Information Science. Many of the projects they are working on are centered around using virtual reality technology. Junior in Computer Science Jacqueline Chen said, “There are a lot of really cool projects happening that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see or work on. I’ve definitely increased my understanding of the kinds of skills and tasks research involves and have grown as a result of this process.”

This internship is unique in that it provides engineering students with the opportunity to apply what they learn in class to healthcare, a core value of HCESC and Jump ARCHES. Junior in Mechanical Engineering Peter Chien said, “I love that I’m able to leverage my strengths in mechanical design and product development to spearhead the hardware aspects of my project. I also have the opportunity to work extensively with electronics and programming, allowing me to grasp crucial skills and concepts I wouldn’t otherwise find in my standard university curriculum. I truly believe [the project I am working on] has the potential to be scaled up and implemented in the real world for disinfecting facilities, which is a use-case more relevant now than ever before due to COVID-19.”

Another exciting aspect of the virtual internship is that it allows students to partake in research from all across the globe, when normally they would either need to stay at their on-campus apartment or find a summer sublease. From Champaign, to Abu Dhabi, to South Korea, our 11 interns are becoming pros at navigating research from afar! The interns meet as a group every Friday over Zoom to discuss the progress they have made each week on their projects.

We look forward to spotlighting our interns and the projects they are working on throughout the summer! Stay tuned here on our website and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

N95 Respirator Mask Design & Fabrication

Welcome to the second edition of “Under the Microscope,” where we speak with an investigator from a different Jump ARCHES project in each feature. In this feature, we’re speaking with Jeremy Guest, co-principal investigator of a proposal to design and fabricate N95 respirator masks. This project was funded by the 2020 Jump ARCHES Priority Call for proposals to address COVID-19 and other pandemics. Read about the rest of the funded projects here.

Give us a brief summary of your project and what prompted you to undertake this research:

The goal of this project is to leverage the collective resources and expertise of the University of Illinois, OSF HealthCare, Carle Foundation Hospital, ShapeMaster Inc., and other local groups to respond to the urgent and sustained need for N95 respirators amid the COVID-19 pandemic. My team is working to develop a clear, NIOSH-compliant N95 respirator that, with filter cartridge replacement, can be sanitized and reused for weeks.

There was clearly a pressing need for PPE for healthcare workers in the early stages of the pandemic, but there was no clear indication that supply chains would be able to recover in time to keep up with sustained demand. We began this project with the intent of diversifying the portfolio of solutions that healthcare providers could use to protect their staff. As director of the Environmental Engineering and Science Laboratories in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at U of I, I had been looking for ways to contribute by, for example, inventorying available PPE in our laboratories. When U of I began to organize the I-PPE Initiative, I was glad to become involved and help lead a committed, collaborative, and energetic team to work toward a reusable N95 respirator and reusable face shield.

Who are your collaborators and how did you decide to work with them?

The Co-PIs for this project from OSF HealthCare are Jared C. Rogers, M.D., who is Regional President of OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center and John. F. Kreckman, M.D., who is the Chief Medical Officer and VP of Medical Affairs at OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center. We’ve also worked closely with Brent Cross at Jump Simulation Center and received feedback from Wendy Ash of OSF. We’re now working with Michelle Brownfield at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center to do the fit testing. Some other key collaborators from U of I include Professor Helen Nguyen (I-PPE lead), Lisa Bievenue, Professor Vishal Verma, Professor Shelly Zhang, Professor Roland Cusick, Professor Kesh Kesavadas, and more than a dozen others. Ken Cooley from ShapeMaster in Ogden, IL has been critical in fabrication and prototyping. Professor James Guest from Johns Hopkins University and Michael Aref, Matt Ashmore, and William Scott from Carle contributed substantively as well.

What’s the current status of the project and how do you see it progressing in the future?

We have developed prototypes in collaboration with ShapeMaster, Inc. in Ogden, IL, and with one component made by TEKMILL in Champaign. We’ve done a quantitative fit test at Carle Foundation Hospital, where our N95 prototype outperformed disposable N95s for fit and seal. We will be doing fit testing at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana this month, and after that we’ll make some minor modifications to the design, fabricate more prototypes, and proceed with additional testing including NIOSH filtration testing at a certified laboratory. The long-term goal is to enable companies to manufacture this from the open-source designs we’ll post online. OSF plans to prototype the design and test in their facilities. Our hope is that we can develop a design that passes fit tests, meets NIOSH N95 performance guidelines, and helps to expand the portfolio of potential solutions healthcare systems could leverage to protect their staff. The fact that its reusable would reduce demand overall.

Spring 2020 Jump ARCHES Grants Focus on Rapid Solutions for COVID-19 Response

Seventeen research projects are sharing nearly $800,000 in funding through the Jump ARCHES research and development program. The Jump Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (Jump ARCHES) program is a partnership between OSF HealthCare and The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois (U of I) at Urbana-Champaign.

These projects were submitted to an unprecedented special call for Jump ARCHES proposals to address COVID-19, pandemics, and other public health crises through smart health, data analytics, AI, and other technologies. The ARCHES program supports research involving clinicians, engineers, and social scientists from OSF HealthCare, University of Illinois, and U of I College of Medicine in Peoria (UICOMP) to develop technologies and devices that could revolutionize medical training and health care delivery.

A requirement of the grant applications was for solutions that could be deployed quickly, within four to six weeks.

“In this crisis mode where we are all working to leverage Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center and our talents to improve service for patients affected by COVID-19, the synergistic effect of engineering and clinical service breaks down traditional barriers and gets us more quickly to much-needed solutions,” said
Dr. John Vozenilek, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Jump Simulation Center in Peoria.

“When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we felt that it was our responsibility to help researchers find solutions,” said T. Kesh Kesavadas, of the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at U of I at Urbana-Champaign and Engineer-in-Chief of Jump ARCHES.

View a brief summary of each project here.

Digitizing the Neurological Screening Examination

Welcome to the first Jump ARCHES “Under the Microscope,” where we speak with an investigator from a different project in each feature. In this feature, we’re speaking with George Heintz, co-primary investigator of “Digitizing the Neurological Screening Examination.” This project, funded in the Jump ARCHES 2019 cycle, attempts to digitize standard neurological screenings of patients in order to ID and predict neurological diseases.

Give us a brief summary of your project and what prompted you to undertake this research:

This project attempts to digitize and quantify neurological screening examinations, which are meant to identify neurological symptoms and eventually the disease that is responsible. We intend to quantify movement disorders through images, motion sensors, and force data. We are currently evaluating different equipment options starting with the Microsoft Kinect DK camera, utilizing commodity products such as cell phones, and the new HoloLense 2, which we have not tested yet but hear is a great improvement from the previous version. Using AI and imaging methods, we believe that we can quantify the movement deviations which would enable us to discriminate between normal to abnormal and measure how fast a disease is progressing.

Who are your collaborators and how did you decide to work with them?

Minh Do, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UIUC, is the principal investigator who oversees all of our research. Dr. Chris Zallek, a neurologist at OSF, and Jake Sosnoff, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Health Sciences at UIUC, are co-primary investigators along with myself. About two years ago, Chris gave a talk at the Health Care Engineering Systems Center about general neurological examinations, which inspired me to think about how one could quantify these complex examinations. While searching for collaborators, I discussed with Minh Do to see if it was possible and whether his research aligned with the idea. I introduced Minh to Chris, then we identified Jake Sosnoff as a movement specialist and additional collaborator. We then wrote the Jump ARCHES proposal together and won.

How do you see this research being used in the future?

This research would allow a clinician, primary care physician, or even advanced practical nurse to realize abnormalities or changes in a patient across multiple visits and make informed decisions such as adjusting medication doses, prescribing targeted exercises, or making predictions as to when patients will need more assistive technology in the home or move into assisted living facilities. Ultimately, this will help patients prepare for difficult financial or logistical adjustments in their household and plan for future care. This, however, is a long-term goal.