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Wanted: Clever Medical Training

Apr. 11, 2013 - 11:54AM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
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If you can design a medical simulation or other medical device that uses a microcontroller, a pot of money awaits you.

The U.S. Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) is offering $25,000 to encourage innovative projects that use microcontrollers, tiny computers often used in electronics.

July 31 is the deadline for the contest, which is sponsored by TATRC, Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center, and Parallax Inc., a California-based manufacturer of microcontrollers.

“The contest is for any medical project. It could be a device prototype, a simulation or another application,” said Thomas Talbot, chief scientist at TATRC’s Armed Forces Simulation Institute for Medicine.

So why the emphasis on microcontrollers? They’re cheap, small, and can be used in a variety of applications when paired with a few additional electronics and some ingenuity.

“Some of the items being prototyped may not be as sophisticated as those on the commercial market, but might have Third World applications,” Talbot said. “More important than microcontrollers themselves is the increasingly influential maker community that innovates with them. This contest is about citizen innovation and creativity.”

Examples of potential simulation applications listed on the Parallax site include simulated medical instruments, a casualty tracker, adjustable vital signs simulator, and augmented reality medical training. They could also be used for procedural training, such as an airway intubation or needle insertion trainer.

Prizes will be awarded to 14 educational winners (including universities and public schools, as well as home-schooled students) and 10 winners from the general public.

Besides a chance for prize money, applicants can get a free microcontroller kit valued at $300 to $400. The award ceremony will be held in September at TATRC’s Prototyping, Integration & Testing Lab at Fort Detrick, Md.

Talbot said there have been about a hundred entries so far, including simulations, medical training devices, non-invasive diagnostic equipment, smart exercise equipment that use physiology sensors, rehabilitation and prosthetics applications, and robotic equipment.

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