The kit can record voices, display when its medication contents are expired, and register when the ambulance arrives on the scene, among other features.
In early February, the National Institutes of Health's Neurological Emergencies Treatment Trials network is distributing 150 of the students' data loggers to its 17 hub medical research institutions across the country.
The kits will be used in a four-year national study comparing how ambulance patients respond to two different anti-seizure drugs: lorazepam, which must be given in the patient's vein; and midazolam, which is easier to administer because it can be given in the patient's muscle. Both medications are given as shots.
Medical researchers chose the students' prototype over a design from an engineering firm. Their solution was the most elegant, said Dr. Robert Silbergleit, principal investigator on this RAMPART study and associate professor of emergency medicine at U-M's Medical School. RAMPART stands for Rapid Anticonvulsant Medication Prior to ARrival Trial.
"I was very impressed that they came up with a design that was very functional, efficient and streamlined," Silbergleit said. "It does exactly what it needs to do and nothing that it doesn't need to do. And they were able to deliver it on time."
Clinical drug trials are notoriously difficult to conduct in ambulances, he explained. Paramedics busy caring for patients don't often have time to fill out a research record that accurately notes exactly when they arrived, when they gave medication and how quickly the patient responded. The data logger kits do this work for the paramedics.
The kit contains the medication, a clock, a GPS tracker, an accelerometer, a vibration sensor, a time-stamped voice recorder, two special D-batteries, a thermometer, an SD memory card and a 16-bit microprocessor to pull everything together, explained Dan Lagreca, a senior computer engineering major who worked on the project.
The GPS tracker and the accelerometer measure when the ambulance arrived on site. The GPS isn't reliable because satellite signals can't always be picked up inside ambulances. The accelerometer is the back-up that records the kit's movement. Researchers can pick out the different signatures of a kit at rest, in an idling truck, on the road and in the hands of a paramedic. The vibration sensor helps conserve power. It detects the first signs of movement and kicks on the accelerometer, which would drain the batteries if it remained on at all times.
The time-stamped voice recorder turns on when the kit is opened. When paramedics give the medication, they only needs to say what they're doing. They'll give another verbal cue when the patient's seizure stops.
The thermometer takes the kit's temperature every hour. One of the medications being tested is sensitive to extreme heat. If the kit overheats at any point, it will display that it's expired. It automatically expires after 60 days, the shelf-life of these drugs.
The components are off-the-shelf. Getting them to work together was the toughest part of the project, said Patrick Quinn, a master's student in the division of Computer Science and Engineering. Quinn oversaw the project.
"Most of the team members didn't have any experience in this," Quinn said. "They've had basic engineering classes but nothing hands-on in embedded systems. But we put a lot of effort into it and I was surprised at how well it turned out."
The team started working on this project in April. They worked full time on it all summer, and finished up in the fall. Several of them spent two days field testing in ambulances in Cincinnati.
"It was one of the most valuable summers of my life," Lagreca said.
This project is a product of the College of Engineering's Undergraduate Student Projects Lab, which allows students to experiment with embedded systems under faculty supervision. The students do both the hardware and the software design, have a printed circuit board fabricated, and then assemble and test their design before they hand it off to the customer, said Mark Brehob, a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and lab director.
Other students involved in the data logger project are Craig Spencer, a mechanical engineering major, and Andrew Jones, Keegan Reilly and Ray Smith, computer engineering majors. Other faculty who worked with the students are Darren McKague, research investigator and adjunct lecturer in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences; and Matt Smith, a senior engineer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At more than $130 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference. Find out more at http://www.engin.umich.edu/.
For more information:
RAMPART study: http://rampart.umich.edu
Neurological Emergencies Treatment Trials network (NETT): http://www.nett.umich.edu/nett/welcome
RAMPART studyNeurological Emergencies Treatment Trials network (NETT)