Fresh AUC Graduate Designs Mechanical Engineering Prototype for Healthcare Applications
Belquis Haider ’19, who studied mechanical engineering and was a recipient of the Tomorrow's Leaders Scholarship at The American University in Cairo (AUC) designed, fabricated and programed a mechanical engineering prototype to evaluate the forces between the hand and splints worn by patients suffering from base-of-thumb osteoarthritis with 3D printable technology. As a student at AUC’s Undergraduate Research Program, Haider interned with the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and incorporated the soft-sensing technologies developed at the University of Leeds in devising her project. Her research titled HAILO was a joint project between Imperial College London, University of Leeds and University of Oxford. She received a Research Excellence Award from the University of Leeds in 2018 and presented her work at the World Congress for Undergraduate Research in Germany in May 2019. She is now pursuing a European Master of Science in Photonics and Optical Engineering.
"The aim of the project I worked on was the instrumentation of a splint with soft-sensing technology for evaluating the mechanical forces and patient compliance," Haider explained. "This is significant to inform future designs of splints especially that there is no data to justify their use, and this can also lead to a customized patient treatment."
In the early stages of osteoarthritis, splints have been prescribed to limit joint movements and reduce pain, but there is little knowledge about the optimal design of splints, considering how they interact with the patient's hands, and there is also limited data on patient’s compliance with the treatment.
"Sensing technologies is an area that has been of interest to me for a long time due to the ubiquitous nature that lends them useful in various applications," noted Haider.
"As a mechanical engineering student and Tomorrow's Leaders scholar," she added, "my vision has always revolved around innovating and creating technological solutions that can serve society. Our society in the MENA region is in dire need of technological breakthroughs and innovations that are accessible, sustainable and serve existing needs." Haider reflects on her time at AUC with gratitude, highlighting the importance of research at the University. “I believe that the education and support I received from AUC are what propelled me toward success,” affirmed Haider. "
Haider also programmed and integrated a wireless platform to stream the data collected by the sensors to a mobile application for clinical evaluation. This involved an iterative design process, manufacturing of soft sensors, and mechatronic component selection and programming.
Amani ElShimi, director of undergraduate research at AUC, said: "Belquis Haider was an exemplary undergraduate researcher. She was active in the Mechanical Engineering Department, even in her early freshman and sophomore years. She became an Ambassador for Undergraduate Research, documenting projects taking place in her department, interviewing faculty research mentors, and compiling mechanical engineering research guides and material on methods and theories.”