Team 12 was a big winner at this year's Capstone Symposium. Their team took first place for the Nanotechnology Engineering Fourth-Year Poster and Prototype, and received the Norman Esch Engineering Entrepreneurship Award. Their project was titled “MedSens: Intrabody Force Sensing Advancement for Medical Probing”.

Team members William Kim, Andres Miranda, Andrei Perez, Brian Periku and Yunheng Zou were supervised by Dr. Peng Peng at the Centre of Advanced Materials Joining. The team has developed cutting-edge technology designed to enhance the safety and precision of endoscopic procedures.

Team 12’s project addresses a critical issue for surgeons performing procedures, particularly endoscopies where success hinges on the surgeon's skill. During these procedures, it is often hard for surgeons to tell how much force they are exerting on the patient’s body.

To reduce this risk, the team has developed a solution incorporating advanced force sensors and real-time feedback mechanisms. The team’s prototype leverages digital technology to augment decision-making processes.

“We also did a lot of development for Dr. Peng’s research team who were already working on this device at a more fundamental level. His research group had been working to develop this technology for the past two years. Under Dr. Peng’s supervision, we designed a prototype, and we were able to show that, yes, it could work through this proof-of-concept project that we developed,” says Miranda.

At the core of their innovation is the integration of force sensors onto the tips of surgical probes, specifically focusing on flexible probes for minimally invasive procedures. These sensors, known as strain gauges, are meticulously designed using UV laser technology, allowing for precise measurement of forces applied during procedures.

The team designed ultra-thin sensors at low-cost and then adhered them around the surface of highly flexible surgical tools without altering their geometry or behaviour. The sensors are connected to external electronics and provide a user interface resulting in a prototype that can be used as a clinical guidance and decision support system.

“These strain gauge sensors can be seamlessly integrated into existing surgical instruments, providing accurate and reliable feedback to surgeons at a fraction of the cost and complexity of other force-sensing options. This technology enables surgeons to monitor the amount of force applied, thus minimizing the risk of complications such as tissue damage or bleeding,” says Periku.

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The project's interdisciplinary approach has been instrumental in its success, with team members contributing expertise in software development, materials characterization, microfabrication, and data science.

The teammate’s undergraduate co-op experiences were a major influencing factor in the design of the prototype. Periku was working in the field of tactile and force sensors. He worked on a project with an industry partner Forcen and was working on flexible force sensors. Forcen was a key sponsor for the Capstone Team’s project.

Perez was employed at Siemens Healthineers as a co-op student and was working for a Silicon Valley startup developing experimental endoscopic systems.

“I realized that in the industry researchers are focusing on the navigational and optical aspects of endoscopy. For this project I thought we should start looking at this in a more minimalistic way, exploring what type of sensing we can use to make an efficient, cost-effective system for such single-use devices” says Perez.

Zou had co-op jobs that delved into software development. Kim’s co-op experience was in software engineering, signal processing and data science. Miranda had worked in microfabrication and materials characterization. The students leveraged skills developed in their undergrad labs, lectures and co-op experience to create their award-winning project.

In addition to technical innovation, the team has gained invaluable experience in pitching MedSens in this year's Esch Competition, enhancing their understanding of its market potential and value proposition.

The team had been invited to present their poster at a Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology Open House on May 31st.

Looking ahead, the team members have ambitious plans for their future endeavours. While some will pursue graduate studies at the University of Waterloo, others aim to apply their skills in industry settings, ranging from biotechnology companies to hardware development firms.

Congratulations to Team 12 for their successful project!