Engineering Students Help Identify Bones
Mark Atwater posted on April 28, 2015 |
New technology will make it faster and safer.

Identifying bones is serious work that requires the right tools. Thanks to some undergraduate engineering students at Texas Christian University (TCU), those tools are getting even better.

As described in a TCU 360 article, what started as a concept for a senior capstone project has become a tangible, functional creation. The task was to simplify and accelerate the process of removing boneTwenty-one students took on the challenge and were divided into four groups with focus areas of cutting, cleaning, mounting and software development.

The idea for the project came from Rhonda Roby, professor at J. Craig Venter Institute and former associate professor at the University of North Texas (UNT) Center for Human Identification. According to the article, “UNT receives hundreds of bone samples each year from all around the country to be identified. The process of extracting bone fragments is unsafe, risky and time consuming.”

Tristan Tayag and Bob Bittle, professors of engineering who advise senior engineering majors during the capstone, were confident their students could meet the challenge. After designing, building and extensively testing the new machine they devised, bone can now be extracted for examination in half of the time (now 15 minutes) and with added safety features.

Each group within the team contributed to the process which involves steps of cleaning the area to avoid cross-contamination, holding the uneven bone steady, cutting and extracting a small piece of bone and recording information the details of each bone.

Ideas for the capstone projects often come from industry are funded by those companies. This project received approximately $40,000 to assist in its completion. The project paid more than just monetarily, however, and the students are grateful for the experience and the resume building opportunity. It has also resulted in new technology that will assist in bone identification, which will benefit many more.


Image: TCU 360/ Tristan Tayag

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