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About Sickkids
About SickKids

May 15, 2012

SickKids’ MedTech Challenge inspires students to pursue careers in biomedicine

By Elisabeth Laratta

Two teams of high school students were awarded top honours at the first annual MedTech Challenge. The program, created to inspire high school students to pursue education opportunities in biomedicine, was held at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Sebastian Mazzuca, Ben Mazor and Qi Qi Lin (Team One) and Bolis Ibrahim, Neil Wadhvana, Jerry Liu and Fahim Shahreer (Team Six) earned the highest praise from the panel of engineers and surgeons who judged the event.

Hosted by the Centre for Image Guided Innovation and Therapeutic Intervention, Logics Academy and Kids Science, the five-week program culminated on May 12th. The Challenge had 24 Toronto high school students demonstrate to judges how the neurosurgical robots they designed and fabricated, using LEGO Mindstorms kits integrated with medical tools, could perform a simulated craniotomy (removal of a brain tumour). SickKids neurosurgeons provided students with clinically-relevant design requirements that were incorporated and addressed by the students in the final presentations.

The panel judged designs based on innovative design, performance and ease-of-use. They were thoroughly impressed with the caliber and realism of the prototypes that were presented. The event, celebrated by participants, families and facilitators, was a testament to the creative spirit that high school students can bring to tackle clinical problems, by utilizing innovative technological tools such as robotics.

Santosh Iyer, a graduate student in the CIGITI at SickKids, always knew that he wanted to pursue a career in engineering, but it wasn’t until a grade ten science fair that he became interested in biomedicine. He now applies his passion for the convergence of medicine and engineering by doing research with medical robotics.

Having been at the Hospital for three years, Iyer wanted to inspire high school students to consider educational opportunities like his -uniting engineering and medicine. He knew his goal, but being in the middle of his masters’ studies, didn’t have the time or resources to conceptualize a curriculum to make it a reality on his own. He partnered with Logics Academy, which holds educational programs in robotics, to create the 2012 MedTech challenge.

“I wanted to see how much students could get out of the challenge and inspire them to consider educational opportunities from engineering and medicine,” says Iyer. “The intent was to promote cross disciplinary learning, and biomedical engineering is a broad and emerging field which promotes exactly this - the fusion of engineering and medicine to tackle challenging clinical problems with novel technological solutions.”
The Challenge’s purpose proved successful as it made a significant impact on winners Ibrahim, a recent high school graduate who will be attending university in the fall, and Wadhvana, who will start grade 11 this September.

Winning the Challenge was more of a personal, rather than professional, accomplishment for Wadhvana.

“The MedTech challenge was a personal challenge to see how I would persevere in a very complex and technical team environment, with tight timelines, while amongst the brightest minds from the TDSB, renowned scientists from The Hospital for Sick Children and experts from CIGITI,” says Wadhvana. “The “win”, for me, was not the main prize. The prize was the knowledge, trust and relationships that I built.”

Inspired by the competition, Ibrahim has changed his long-term career plans from electrical to biomedical engineering.

“My original educational plan was to pursue a career in electrical engineering. Having been exposed to the material through this program I now made the decision to major in biomedical studies in my engineering program. Specifically, I hope to work in the biomedical field designing and programming circuitry and machines for pediatric surgical applications,” says Ibraham. “I can easily say if it wasn't for this program I would have never thought, up until today, that I would want to go into the biomedical field.”