The CU Denver Department of Bioengineering has successfully maintained several carefully distanced in-person classes for fall 2020 after meticulous safety planning. The students are the top priority for the department, and students overwhelmingly expressed a desire to return to campus for in-person classes when possible. The University of Colorado Denver developed plans for a campuswide safe return during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, due to the Department of Bioengineering’s unique location in its own space on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, the responsibility for planning the details for a safe return within the building landed primarily on bioengineering faculty and staff, an effort that was spearheaded by instructor Jennifer Wagner. In the Bioscience 2 building, the department operates several teaching and research labs, conference rooms, office spaces, and a large classroom. While following CDC and CDPHE guidelines, Wagner developed plans to safely facilitate in-person instruction and hands-on learning for students when possible, including planning for classes as large as 25 students carefully spaced in the large Bioscience 2 classroom. Just as the Department of Bioengineering jumped into action to join the state’s COVID response in the spring, leaders in the department eagerly rose to the challenge of adapting to new methods and procedures for engineering education. Many thanks are in order to Jennifer for her leadership and tireless efforts for a responsible return to campus.
For the last three years, the Bioengineering Opportunities and Leadership Training (BOLT) Camp has been a highlight of the summer for student participants and staff alike. This four-day camp, typically hosted at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, exposes students to a variety of exciting STEM career opportunities and teaches them about bioengineering through fun lab experiments, design work, and teambuilding. However, due to concerns with the COVID-19 outbreak, BOLT had to go online for 2020. While BOLT Director Casey Howard knew this summer’s camps would look different, she made sure they could still provide students hands-on bioengineering learning – remotely.
In the two sessions of virtual BOLT camp, 44 students from around Colorado and beyond were mailed kits full of supplies to build multiple prosthetic hand prototypes. The students worked first individually to build rough prototypes before collaborating with their BOLT peers in teams to navigate the design process in order to redesign a more functional prototype. The teams competed with their hands as they attempted to complete a number of challenging tasks. Additionally, one highlight for students was hooking up a custom circuit board that could read muscle signals from campers arms and then turn a motor (similar to how powered prostheses actually work in really life).
Through virtual team meetings, exciting lectures from some of the nation’s top experts in prosthetics, and design instruction, students were able to learn all about bioengineering as well as tackle hands-on activities from the safety of their homes. Though this summer’s camp looked different than usual, the BOLT team and the campers creatively overcame the challenges to complete yet another successful round of BOLT camps.
At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.