New app created by CU researchers offers customized advice to improve learning

ok-googleOK Google, I Need My Study Tips

University of Colorado researchers have created on-demand, voice-activated apps to enhance learning and teaching for members of CU Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Denver.

VoxScholar ™ has released its first two apps, CU Study Skills and CU Faculty Development. These apps make it possible for faculty and students to talk to Google Assistant to receive study tips or to get information on faculty development topics.

VoxScholar is an initiative funded by the CU Department of Medicine and was developed by faculty at the CU Anschutz School of Medicine and the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science.

While multiple voice-activated platforms exist, using the Google Assistant platform allows for the creation of higher education apps without extensive and costly infrastructure investment. Students and faculty using the apps can use devices they already own, including cell phones. This approach to academic innovation helps keep higher education affordable, responsive and relevant.

“One goal of the project was to leverage technology everyone had in their pocket – a cell phone – to transform learning,” said Janet Corral, PhD, associate professor of medicine, who leads the project. “Our busy learners and faculty are working in multiple sites: campuses and clinics, homes and offices, in the city and in rural communities. Often, they need just-in-time access to information and cannot wait until the next time they are on campus for face-to-face sessions.”

The VoxScholar apps provide more than other voice-activated apps, which typically offer information on campus meals or laundry services. VoxScholar’s apps focus on academic performance by offering improved study skills or evidence-based teaching advice. For example, students can get timely, practical tips on how to handle multiple choice questions or manage time during an exam. Faculty can get advice on leading small group sessions or improving learner engagement.

Corral is a scholar in the Department of Medicine’s Program for Academic Clinician Educators (PACE), which launched in 2017 and provides grants to support faculty in developing and improving innovative educational programs, and in engaging in educational research to guide how we teach and assess health professions learners.

Suzanne Brandenburg, MD, vice chair for education in the Department of Medicine, said, “Dr. Corral’s innovative work has the potential to transform medical education. I’m delighted that our unique PACE program has provided her the resources, time and mentorship needed to achieve this milestone.”

Corral collaborated with the CU Denver Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science to develop VoxScholar. Assistant Professor Farnoush Banaei-Kashani, PhD, an expert in intelligent and large-scale data-driven systems, along with his PhD student, Javier Pastorino, worked with Corral to develop these apps.

“We have introduced novel ideas based on machine learning and text mining to make the apps smart,” said Banaei-Kashani. “For instance, the apps can capture and use the context of the conversation with the learner or faculty member and personalize the tips it provides accordingly.”

The VoxScholar apps innovate by relying on artificial intelligence. The apps are designed to send specific tips based on the specific student’s needs. Similarly, educators offering lecture-based programming in a classroom setting receive different tips than faculty who teaching in a hospital or other clinical setting.

“The spaces where we work and study are complex, and I wanted the apps to do better than our existing fact-based learning modules and tips sheets. My goal was to create apps that respond just-in-time to what people need, and, furthermore, help coach them to success,” said Corral. Both apps have been developed in consultation with academic leaders, faculty and students. Students and faculty have also beta tested the apps prior to release.

The apps are available for free through the Google Play store, but require an official affiliation with CU Anschutz Medical Campus or CU Denver to access the content. VoxScholar plans to release additional apps throughout the spring and summer as students return to the health professions programs on both campuses.

ESIL program receives $1M NSF S-STEM award

Photo-ESIL-PartnersA team of faculty from the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has received a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM award to support the new Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands (ESIL) program. This is the second NSF award for the program, which is currently enrolling students for fall 2018.

Timberley Roane, associate professor of integrative biology, David Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, and Rafael Moreno, associate professor of geography and environmental sciences, designed the ESIL program with a focus on land stewardship with the additional goal to recruit Indigenous students and prepare them to serve as liaisons for their tribes and organizations. Two-thirds of the S-STEM grant is earmarked for scholarships, giving full-time undergraduate students in biology, civil engineering, or environmental sciences up to $10,000 per year for up to five years, depending on their financial need.

“There are many examples, such as the Gold King Mine spill of 2015 or the Standing Rock pipeline dispute of 2016–2017, where questions of environmental stewardship have played out in the context of Indigenous lands,” said Mays, explaining that Indigenous is inclusive of Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians. Mays continued, “Professor Roane recognized the profound need for a new kind of educational program that would train students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) but also provide the nontechnical skills needed to serve as a liaison between tribal, state and federal organizations. We call it the Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands, or ESIL, program.”

These three co-PIs have teamed up with CU Denver’s American Indian Student Services, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and The Evaluation Center, plus external partners representing numerous tribal, state and federal organizations. At the first ESIL Partners Meeting on Friday 4/6/2018, Roane emphasized a key point that makes this program unique—The simple notion that CU Denver does not own the ESIL program, but rather provides the infrastructure for a collaboration in which each partner’s perspective, insight, and contribution is essential for the program to be successful.

ESIL students are required to meet the requirements of their home department plus those of the ESIL certificate program, which ensures that all ESIL students have a common core in STEM, social science, cultural diversity, and cross-cultural communication. Through careful curriculum planning, this program does not require CU Denver to support any new courses and does not require ESIL students in civil engineering, biology, or environmental sciences to take additional credit hours for graduation, because all the ESIL courses that are not major requirements can be taken as electives. A key feature of the program, in addition to a traditional four-year STEM degree, is participation in training and internships designed to provide background with nontechnical matters such as cultural awareness, cross-cultural communication, environmental regulations and organizational dynamics. Additionally, this educational program is designed to support recruitment of Indigenous students.

“But not just recruitment,” Roane added. “We plan to guide our students through every step of the process, from applying to CU Denver, through logistical advice on moving to Denver (if necessary), through major advising, internships, and landing their first professional engagement after leaving CU Denver.”

The focus on land stewardship has been selected not only because it demands the expertise of STEM professionals but also because land stewardship is among the top motivations for Indigenous students considering STEM careers.

“If you know a student who might be interested in this program, or if you represent an organization that might be interested in partnering with the ESIL program (perhaps providing internships or extracurricular support to ESIL students), by all means please let us know,” said Mays.

In 2017, the team also received an award of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to support the ESIL program. This award is one of 27 design and development launch pilots in the second round of NSF’s program for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES).

 

 

 

 

 

ESIL partners include (top row) Rosa Burnett, Harmony Spoonhunter, Susan Johnson, Ryan Ortiz, Kim Varilek, (bottom row) David Mays, Timberley Roane, Rafael Moreno, and Scott Aikin.

 

Grace RedShirt Tyon and Chelsea Situmeang at the ESIL Partners Meeting (Friday 4/6/2018).

Biomedical startup acquired by global medical technology firm

A medical device company founded by two University of Colorado Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus professors was recently acquired by Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies.

Shandas_Robin
Dr. Robin Shandas, chair and professor of bioengineering

Dr. Omer Mei-Dan, a sports surgeon and associate professor of orthopedics at the CU School of Medicine and Dr. Robin Shandas, chair of bioengineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus collaborated on the Pivot Guardian, the industry’s first post-free hip distraction system, designed to mitigate groin complications and heel slip associated with hip arthroscopy.

Working with Dr. Jacob Segil, Instructor in Engineering Plus at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Brett Schumer, an orthopedic device consultant, Drs. Mei-Dan and Shandas created MITA LLC to bring Dr. Mei-Dan’s novel hip distraction technique to market. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The acquisition shows the impact of pairing clinical faculty with bioengineers to bring promising ideas to market. The total time between initial discussions and company exit was less than two years.

“The fact that our Bioengineering Department is located on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus really facilitates such multi-disciplinary interactions,” said Professor Shandas, founding chair of the department who has co-founded several other companies with clinical faculty. “We built a technical team very quickly to execute on Dr. Mei-Dan’s vision to help his patients, while at the same time building the startup company to carry the idea into commercial reality.”

Dr. Mei-Dan agreed.

“Having biomedical engineers as in-house partners who can quickly understand the clinical need, assemble a business-savvy technical team, and iterate through multiple prototypes efficiently is a huge great asset we have here on campus,” he said. “This great success gives me much confidence for future endeavors.”

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About the Department of Bioengineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus performs interdisciplinary research and training at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels in bioengineering, focused on catalyzing technology development to cure and prevent disease. One of the few cross-campus programs in Colorado, Bioengineering also partners with clinicians and entrepreneurs to bring products to market efficiently and quickly. More information is available at http://www.ucdenver.edu/bioengineering

About Sports Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine

The CU Sports Medicine division treats competitive and recreational athletes of all types and ages across the Colorado Front Range, encompassing care for hip, knee, hand, foot & ankle, elbow & shoulder, and spine. CU Sports Medicine physicians lead their field performing groundbreaking procedures including stem cell therapies, orthobiologics, innovative devices and clinical trials. They are also the head team physicians for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth as well as NCAA teams at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver.

Role of hydrodynamic forces on hemostasis

Maria Bortot, a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering and Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the American Heart Association (AHA) predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Jorge DiPaola. Non-surgical bleeding (NSB) is a major complication among patients with aortic stenosis and end-stage heart failure supported by ventricular assist devices or blood pumps such as extracorporeal mechanical oxygenators. Although the mechanism for NSB amongst these patients is not clearly understood, it has been associated with acquired von Willebrand syndrome, a disorder characterized by lossBortot figure (2) of high molecular weight multimers of von Willebrand factor (VWF). It has been proposed, but not yet demonstrated, that the high shear stress associated with VADs and AS can cause VWF elongation, facilitating excessive cleavage by its main protease, ADAMTS-13. Maria’s project is focused on assessing the effects of fluid dynamics on VWF conformation, cleavage as well as platelet activation and receptor shedding. Maria obtained her BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia. Then she was awarded a scholarship by the Argentinean  National Atomic Energy Commission in Argentina were she completed her Masters in Materials Engineering at Instituto Balserio, Universidad Nacional de  Cuyo. She was then awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the University of Colorado, AMC to first complete a the Masters program in Bioengineering before joining the DiPaola Laboratory to pursue her PhD.

Engineering students make a strong showing at the Research and Creative Activities Symposium

Last Friday, 30 engineering students participated in the university’s annual Research and Creative Activities Symposium—11 bioengineering, 5 computer science, 13 electrical engineering and 1 mechanical engineering—and students from the college won first through third place in the Engineering and Math Division, first place in the Biomedical Sciences Division, and an Emerging Scholars award.

Engineering and Math

First place: Electrical engineering PhD student, Zeinab Mohammadi won first place for her poster “Real time spike clustering for electrophysiology recording” (sponsored by Tim Lei and Chao Liu)

Second place: Bioengineering undergraduate students Jacqueline Chavez, Anne Lyons, Ean Peterson, Jonathan Platt, Ian Garvin, Michel Manzanares, Mikala Mueller and Sarah Lamb won second place for their poster “Craniotomy Training Devices with Reusable Thermoplastics to Help Train Emergency Room and Trauma Surgeons” (sponsored by Craig Lanning)

Third place: Electrical engineering undergraduate student Kyle McGrath won third place for his poster “Exploring Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) to Recognize Human Gestures in Edge Computing Environments” (sponsored by Dan Connors and a UROP)

Biomedical Sciences

First place: Bioengineering undergraduate Damon Pool won first place for his presentation entitled, “Optimization of a human induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocyte differentiation method to increase reliability and efficiency for downstream applications” (sponsored by Jeffrey Jacot)

Emerging Scholars Award

Computer science undergraduate students Chris Renden, Lewis Sammons and Jordan Stein won the Emerging Scholars award for their project “Shared rapid prototyping space using hand tracking and virtual reality” (sponsored by Min Choi)

Also, many thanks to the faculty, staff and graduate students who served as judges (my apologies if I missed anyone):

  • Bioengineering: Liliya Vugmeyster, Craig Lanning, Jennifer Wagner
  • Computer Science: Min Choi
  • Electrical Engineering: Md Habib Ullah, Stephen Gedney, Tim Lei
  • Mechanical Engineering: Maryam Darbeheshti

Congratulations!

Project un[Contained] places second, receives social impact award at THE CLIMB

IMG_1546On April 26, six collegiate start-up teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges at THE CLIMB Pitch Night, hosted by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the CU Denver Business School. Among the six teams was Project un[Contained] and interdisciplinary senior design project advised by Peter Jenkins, professor of mechanical engineering.

Un[Contained] won second place ($2500) and the Social Impact Award ($1000) for their deployable, multi-purpose structure made from upcycled shipping containers and deliver them to developing countries suffering from natural disasters, refugee crises and more. Students on the team include Nic Chandler (MECH), Jason Bergfalk (Architecture), Austin Zerr (MECH), Nicholas Powers (Business), Gage Brumley (MECH), Brad Dyksterhouse (MECH), Riley Hamlin (MECH), Corey McLaughlin (MECH), Jon Farmer (Architecture) and Thomas Satkowski (Business).

Read the full story here.

Congratulations!

Harid and Golkowski awarded phase II of their DARPA program

Electrical engineering faculty Vijay Harid and Mark Golkowski have been awarded Phase II of their DARPA program BLING (Broadband Low-frequency Imaging with Novel Generation). This significant award will provide their team $850K for the next 12 months to complete Phase II.  Receiving a Phase II DARPA award is a significant event for not just our program or college, but for this campus.

Congratulations!

SMAB lab study, in collaboration with Dartmouth anthropologist, published

Faculty and students from the Smart Materials and Biomechanics (SMAB) lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering collaborated with Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropologist at Dartmouth University, to study bone daggers from New Guinea. The study looked at the composition of cassowary bone daggers and those made from human femurs, which were seen to carry a greater social prestige, to see if one was stronger than the other.

The paper, published today, has already been covered in The Washington Post, Newsweek, Science Alert, Live Science, Popular Science and more.

CU Denver mechanical engineering researchers who participated in the study include assistant professor Dana Carpenter, PhD student Sam Mills, and associate professor Chris Yakacki.

ASCE STUDENT OFFICERS WIN AWARDS FROM COLORADO SECTION

0419181944aThree civil engineering undergraduates have been selected for awards from the Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). From left to right, they are Phil Taylor, Wesley Engel, and Whitney Benson, each of whom has served as an officer in CU Denver’s ASCE Student Chapter. In addition, Taylor was selected to receive this year’s Jaqueline Arcaris Civil Engineering Scholarship, which recognizes civil engineering students with potential to become outstanding civil engineering professionals. Please join us in congratulating these award-winning ASCE student officers!