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Fall 2022 course code: ENGR 491-531
(HR) denotes Honors.

What is the overall goal of your project?
This project is sponsored by the PATHS-UP ERC, and its specific goal is to create a wearable pre-prototype — similar to a watch-type device — that can get relevant health data from a human. The watch-type device would include different sensing approaches, such as bio-impedance and optical methods, for getting data (heart rate, blood pressure, etc.) from the body without using a cuff. The device would also include the ability to use optics to read an extremely small “bar-code-like” device implanted just under the skin. This tiny implanted “bar code” would be about the size of a grain of rice and would change its color in the presence of various chemicals, such as glucose, for more effective management of diabetes.

The proposed pre-prototype will be designed with several sensors in an array configuration that covers larger areas on the wrist for better sensing. Having an array of sensors that are different (e.g., bioimpedance and optical) will increase redundancy and improve robustness of the signal. This will also make it more accurate and usable for real health monitoring, rather than the typical fitness watches on the market that are not as accurate and do not always measure multiple things.

The proposed prototype will require students from all areas of engineering to design the mechanical form factor, circuits, firmware, signal processing and user interface to offer a solution with the ability to extract actionable information for the patients, doctors, nurses or family members. See the PATHS-UP website for more information.

Which grand challenge are you addressing?
Our team, representing Texas A&M University, the University of California at Los Angeles, Florida International University, Rice University and the University of Illinois, has a vision to change the paradigm for the health of underserved populations by developing revolutionary, cost-effective, wearable technologies. This project will provide a great opportunity for a multidisciplinary student team to work closely with graduate students and faculty and contribute to addressing a major health issue.

What is the key challenge your project is trying to solve?
The Strategic Plan for the PATHS-UP ERC will initially focus on developing multi-modal and robust wearable technologies, as well as systems to capture physiological readings like heart rate and blood pressure.

What is the impact on society your project has?
Chronic diseases have emerged over the last two decades as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. and globally. Of all chronic diseases, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are now the leading cause of death worldwide, with cancer, pulmonary diseases and diabetes following closely behind. Every 30 seconds on average, someone will suffer a coronary event in the U.S., and half of those will die. In addition, over 29 million Americans (nearly 10% of the population) have diabetes. With over 1.4 million new diabetes cases diagnosed each year in the U.S., this amounts to one American diagnosed around every 30 seconds. The two diseases are also linked, since CVD is a major complication of diabetes.

Chronic diseases are particularly devastating in underserved communities in the U.S., where they are contracted at a higher rate than the national average. Thus, the PATHS-UP ERC seeks to develop the fundamental knowledge, enabling technology and engineered systems to overcome current technology gaps and to address current barriers. This project will provide the pre-prototype of one such technology, a lab on a wrist for monitoring multiple biomarkers.

Faculty mentor: Dr. Gerard Coté

Engineering majors targeted: Biomedical engineering, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, mechanical engineering