Student teams create laparoscopic surgical robots designed to reduce the invasiveness of diagnosing endometriosis and investigate how the disease forms and spreads. Using a synthetic abdominal cavity simulator, students test and iterate their remotely controlled, camera-toting prototype devices, which must fit through small incisions, inspect the organs and tissue for disease, obtain biopsies, and monitor via ongoing wireless image-taking. Note: This activity is the core design project for a semester-long, three-credit high school engineering course. Refer to the associated curricular unit for preparatory lessons and activities.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Q. Develop and produce a product or system using a design process. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- R. Evaluate final solutions and communicate observation, processes, and results of the entire design process, using verbal, graphic, quantitative, virtual, and written means, in addition to three-dimensional models. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- New York: Science
- S1.4 Seek to clarify, to assess critically, and to reconcile with their own thinking the ideas presented by others, including peers, teachers, authors, and scientists (Grades 5 - 8)  ...show
- 1. Engineering design is an iterative process involving modeling and optimization finding the best solution within given constraints which is used to develop technological solutions to problems within given constraints. (Grades 0 - 8)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- Explain the steps of the engineering design process.
- Identify the components of a radio control transmitter and receiver and know how to use them.
- Explain what a biopsy is.
- Explain what endometriosis is and why a biopsy of the disease is necessary in some cases.
- Create and remotely control a small robot containing two or more actuators.
- 4-channel radio transmitter; such as Futaba FUTK4200 (includes Futaba receiver R2004 GF and switch), $100
- 4-cell battery box and switch harness; such as TOWM6220 available at http://www.towerhobbies.com/, $2
- 2 continuous rotation servos; such as Parallax 900-00008 (Futaba) Continuous Rotation Servo available at http://www.robotshop.com/, $13 each
- 2 180-degree rotation servos; such as Futaba S3003 Servo Standard, available at http://www.towerhobbies.com/, $9 each
- 42-gallon black plastic contractor garbage bag; a box of 20 for the entire class for $12
- Engineering Design Quiz, one per person
- Design Project Description Handout, one per person
- Competition Scoring Rubric, one per team
- 2 gallons of white Elmer's School Glue; $14 per gallon
- borax, 16 oz box; available in grocery stores in the laundry detergent aisle, $5
- measuring spoon, 1 teaspoon (for solids); $1 from Dollar store
- measuring cup, minimum 2 cup size (for fluids); $1 from Dollar store
- 2 plastic containers, for mixing glue and water, and borax and water; $5
- water, ~20 cups
- 4-in clear zip ties, pack of 100, $2
- 1-in x 2-in x 12-ft wood board, $3
- 1/4-in thick x 2-ft x 4-ft sheet plywood, $7.50
- 1/8-in x ½-in x 9-ft aluminum strip; such as McMaster 8975K527 available at http://www.mcmaster.com/, $8
- 1½-in long wood screw, quantity 8; such as McMaster 92114A138, $1
- ½-in long wood screw, quantity 30; such as McMaster 93360A220, $4
- drill with 5/64-in (for aluminum) and 1/16-in (for wood) size bits
- black contractor garbage bag (42-gallon size), for making two semi-circle shaped end flaps
- standard light bulb socket and cord with switch; $9 (or else specify that robots provide their own illumination)
- energy-efficient fluorescent bulb; such as SLI Lighting spiral soft white energy-saving bulb, 75 watts, available at http://www.sliledlighting.com/, $5
- electrical tape, $1
- PlayDoh party pack, 10 mini cans, to represent endometriosis lumps; $5
- Building Instructions for Synthetic Abdominal Cavity Simulator, one copy for teacher
- abrasion-resistant natural latex rubber sheeting .02-in thick, 6-in width, 30-ft long; such as McMaster 85995K16 available at http://www.mcmaster.com/, $46
- super glue, 1 oz (28.3 g) bottle; such as Loctite Super Bonder 496 Instant Adhesive, $18
- 1.5- to 2-in diameter PVC pipe, for use in crafting a tube from the latex sheet (exact pipe diameter is not that important)
- 7 used bike tubes of any diameter (easily obtained for free at any bike shop; cut out sections with holes or damage)
- miscellaneous crafting materials such as foam core board (discarded plastic election yard signs work really well), Popsicle sticks, press board, string, hot glue and hot glue guns, masking tape, duct tape, wooden dowels of various sizes, paper clips, pipe cleaners or twist ties, tooth picks, rubber bands, scissors, box cutters, etc., $58
- sticky-back Velcro, 15-ft x ¾-in tape for everyday use; $18
- if manufacturing or prototyping equipment is available, such as a laser cutter, 3-D router, table saw, hand drill, etc., consider making available other materials (such as Plexiglas) for second- and third-iteration prototypes
- remote (wireless) miniature color camera; such as the Mini 5.8 GHz Wireless Spy Camera with PC USB Adapter available at: http://www.shopwiki.com/q/mini-5.8ghz-wireless-spy-camera-with-pc-usb-adapter, ~$130 (Note: Do not buy a wireless camera that operates at 2.4 GHz since this is the same frequency as the transmitters and will cause electrical interference.)
- scale, accurate to 0.1 g; such as Se digital pocket scale, $23
- computer and projector (or overhead projector) to show the Electronics Introduction Presentation.
- The device shall inflict minimal trauma to the patient during insertion. Smaller and fewer incisions heal quicker, are less prone to infection and complications, and are less painful.
- The device shall not harm internal organs and tissue during exploration of the abdominal cavity.
- The device must be untethered and remotely operated. Future versions of the device will remain in the body so the prototype must not have any tethering that would prevent the entry incision from being closed.
- The device shall acquire digital images of the internal anatomy to confirm or disprove the existence of endometriosis.
- If endometriosis exists, the device must be able to acquire a biopsy of the diseased tissue.
- Time is of the essence during surgery. Time required for set-up, insertion, analysis, and removal of the device must not exceed 10 minutes.
|abdominal cavity:||A body cavity that contains the gastrointestinal tract, stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver, etc.|
|abdominopelvic cavity:||The abdominal and pelvic cavities.|
|biopsy:||Removing tissue, by cutting or tearing, for analysis purposes.|
|endometriosis:||A disease in which the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) grows outside of the uterus.|
|engineering design process:||A series of steps used by engineering teams to guide them as they solve problems: define the problem, come up with ideas (brainstorming), select the most promising design, plan and communicate the design, create and test the design, and evaluate and revise the design.|
|ex vivo:||Signifying outside the living body.|
|fallopian tubes:||Tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus.|
|in vivo:||Signifying inside the living body.|
|laparoscopic:||Relating to a laparoscope, which is a long, slender camera and light source used for minimally invasive surgery.|
|ovaries:||A female reproductive organ that holds the ova (eggs).|
|pelvic cavity:||A body cavity that contains the bladder and female reproductive organs.|
|prototype:||A first attempt or early model of a new product or creation. May be revised many times.|
- Create the synthetic abdominal cavity simulator by following the attached Building Instructions for Synthetic Abdominal Cavity Simulator.
- Gather materials and make copies of the quiz, handout and rubric.
- Be prepared with a computer and projector to show the Electronics Introduction Presentation.
- Administer the Engineering Design Quiz, as described in the Assessment section.
- Have students research endometriosis and laparoscopic surgery, as described in the Assessment section.
- Time: Team of two, 40 hours per-week for six months
- Materials budget: $10K to $50K
- Resources: electrical, software, and mechanical engineer colleagues available for consultation. Machinist available to create custom parts.
- Engineering Design Quiz (doc)
- Engineering Design Quiz (pdf)
- Engineering Design Quiz Answers (doc)
- Engineering Design Quiz Answers (pdf)
- Building Instructions for Synthetic Abdominal Cavity Simulator (doc)
- Building Instructions for Synthetic Abdominal Cavity Simulator (pdf)
- Electronics Introduction Presentation (ppt)
- Electronics Introduction Presentation (pdf)
- Design Project Description Handout (doc)
- Design Project Description Handout (pdf)
- Competition Scoring Rubric (doc)
- Competition Scoring Rubric (pdf)
- Teach students how to safely use box cutters, heavy-duty scissors, hot glue guns and other available tools.
- One requirement for your surgical device is to make it as small as possible. Why is surgical tool size such an important consideration?
- Do you think it is possible to perform surgery in the abdomen without making an incision through the skin? How would you do this?
- (Ask near the end of the project) Think back to the "low constraint" brainstorming activity. How would you design your device if you had fewer constraints on your budget and time? Dream big!
- Engineers often look to other specialties for creative solutions to problems and design ideas. You have come up with a number of solutions to solve a difficult mobility problem (navigating a robot in an in vivo environment). How might you apply what you have learned to another engineering field? Which field and what application?
- Eliminate the intestine. The hard, smooth surface of the pressboard is an easier surface to navigate.
- Eliminate the black plastic bag enclosure and the video camera, but allow students to view their devices while in vivo.
- Eliminate the requirement that students obtain a biopsy of the endometriosis (PlayDoh).
Additional Multimedia Support
GI Crawler. Advanced Medical Technologies Laboratory. University of Colorado Boulder. Accessed November 9, 2011. (Description of a research project to develop a mobile capsule-sized crawler for exploration of the gastrointestinal [GI] tract. Involves research into GI tissue mechanics characterization and modeling; micro-tread design and experimentation; and tread-tissue interaction and contact mechanics.) http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/articles/surgical-crawlers
Other Related Information
Benjamin S. Terry, Brandi N. Briggs, Stephanie Rivale, Denise W. Carlson
© 2011 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: August 31, 2015