Teaching medical electronics to Biomedical Engineering students: A problem oriented approach

Jorge Bohorquez, Ozcan Ozdamar, Jonathon Anthony Toft-Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A significant number of graduates from Biomedical Engineering (BME) enter industry or enroll in graduate programs and are confronted with the challenge of developing electronic medical device prototypes. These prototypes requires the integration of very diverse technical skills including analog and digital electronics, microcontroller hardware and software, telecommunications, power electronics and signal processing. The course investment traditionally used to foster and hone these skills is not practical in a four-year BME program. In order to accommodate the broad nature of the BME curriculum, and still equip BME students with the skills they will need in electronic medical device prototyping, our program implements a problem-oriented, top town approach to teaching medical electronics. Two senior level, corequisite courses are taught: Microcomputer Based Medical Instrumentation (BME540) and Medical Electronics Laboratory (BME541). The first course (3 Cr) is lecture based, while the second (2 Cr) is a hands-on laboratory. A problem-oriented methodology has been adapted to help students integrate the diverse and complex topics. The development of a realistic biomedical prototype is both the ultimate goal of the students, as well as a concrete pathway to integrate the many concepts covered in the courses. The teaching methodology incorporates concepts, which students have previous experience with (instrumentation, signal processing, and logic design, for example), and introduces a new set of skills (such as power electronics, microcontrollers, and wireless communication). The course begins by presenting the students with a sample electronic device, which will guide the learning process. The device is broken down into the disparate structures common among all electronic devices, enabling the instructor to address the topics in a broader fashion. To accomplish the concept integration, the lectures and laboratory sessions follow the same logical pathway, mimicking the signal treatment in the device: Analog electronics (instrumentation amplifiers, protection circuits, amplifiers, filters and isolation amplifiers), analog to digital conversion, power supplies (linear, switching and isolated), microcontroller hardware, microcontroller software, data communication and high-level signal display and processing. Professional literature, in the form of application notes and datasheets, are extensively used. The students are trained how to interpret quantitative data presented in the datasheets and how to properly select components based on application. Hardware and software modules were developed for the course; a detailed description of these modules and laboratory sessions will be presented in the paper. During the last 4 weeks of the course, teams of students integrate and test a prototype; specific roles and responsibilities are assigned to each team member based on his/her individual strengths, as observed by the instructors throughout the duration of the course. Typically, the semester culminates in students developing a wireless electrophysiological device, but other devices, such as an optical coherence tomography device are being considered as alternative final projects for future students. Course objectives are assessed in several ways: by student surveys at the end of the semester, by analysis of the final product and by the associated documentation. BME540/541have been available for two years with satisfactory results as assessed by student and industry representative evaluations, exit interviews and employment records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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