NuVu students join Dr. Henry Feldman ’85 in the Beth Israel Surgical Simulation Lab

This fall term, students at NuVu are participating in a two-week studio at the Beth Israel Surgical Simulation Lab (SIM Lab) with alumnus, Beaver parent, and hospitalist physician Dr. Henry Feldman ’85. Feldman was inspired to collaborate with NuVu after seeing students and coaches present at the Boston Mini Maker Faire.

For this studio, students were tasked with addressing challenges at the high-tech SIM lab. After participating in a mock surgery and viewing the technologies used to train surgeons, they are now working on several projects to improve the lab – such as cheaper medical simulations; more realistic simulation organs; tools to help keep surgeons’ hands steady; and a tool holder that keeps track of past actions. 

Senior Sara Lewis talks about her project below:

I decided to work on the cheaper medical simulations project because I like the idea of making expensive simulators more accessible to hospitals with less money. During the brainstorming process, my group went through many ideas, but ended up landing on a cesarian section. We decided to simulate a C-section procedure because – though it’s fairly easy – there are many complications that could arise and many different situations under which a patient would need the procedure.

After consulting with Dr. Feldman, my group decided to focus on where the placenta implants in the abdomen and how this can affect the surgery. We decided to focus on this for now because, though there are many problems that arise, this is the simplest to simulate in the two weeks we have to work on the project while still working on building all the parts we need.

To build the abdomen and uterus, we ended up using the CNC machine (computer numerical control machine) to mill pieces that we 3D modeled and then brought the pieces to Beaver to use on the school’s vacuum former. The CNC machine takes a computer design file (CAD) and turns it into numbers the machine can follow. We decided to use this machine on our project to fabricate the 3D pieces we designed in Rhino out of foam so we could then vacuum form them. These two pieces are the outer shell of the uterus and abdomen, but since we want to actually simulate the procedure, we need to create parts of the skin and uterus that can be cut through. To do this, we modeled molds for pieces that attach to the outer shell of the uterus/abdomen. These molds could be filled with whatever material we decide works best to mimic the consistency of skin.

The biggest challenge in the project so far has been creating all the pieces with anatomy in mind. Since we’re not doctors, we needed to do a ton of research on what an abdomen looks like right before childbirth and how the uterus is shaped. Even after all our research before designing the pieces, we still ran into issues with scaling the uterus and abdomen relative to each other. Though we received lots of feedback from the NuVu coaches and Dr. Feldman, it’s still been difficult designing our project around real human anatomy.

My biggest take-away so far is it’s very difficult to recreate human biology with technology. I’ve never experienced a project based on the human body before and was surprised by the amount of research necessary before even beginning to try to solve the problem with technology. It’s been a learning experience trying to understand the biology of pregnancy and the C-section procedure, but it feels great to work on a project that could actually have some real-world impact.

See photos from their visit to the Beth Israel Surgical Simulation Lab.

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