Educating the next generation to solve complex health problems through design thinking

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Intern Insights: The Summer at a Glance

When I came down to Philadelphia for the first time in my life at the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that when I had interviewed for an internship at TJU, Bon asked me to help out with a bit of troubleshooting for some Bluetooth sensors. As an engineer at Princeton, I had taken a couple of computer science courses, so I decided to give it a shot.

Playing with all the cool tech in the Vault

Playing with all the cool tech in the Vault

When I first stepped into the vault, I was amazed. It was a treasure trove of cool tech - outfitted with six 3D printers, a whole deck of circuitry, a special STL printer, and even an Oculus Rift, I knew I was in for a fun ride. However, work came first, and after an initial session of design thinking training we started our work on the smarterPlay project.

Pulling smarterPlay together proved to be a bit of a challenge - we had in our hands a new technology, Quuppa, that had rarely been used before, meaning that there were no online forums or resources we could use to get help. Rob had gotten to a certain point in setting up, and all the necessary components were there, but every time we tried to run the software, we ran into a new issue we had to fix. Eventually I managed to get it running, first in the vault and later on in the playground, and we were finally starting to get some data. After a week or so of collecting, it was time to start analyzing the data we had collected. I ended up writing a program in order to put the data, which was in a less than ideal format, into a more readable form and also made a few cool visualizations that show paths and level of activity. Reading through Quuppa’s manuals, and after learning more about computer science, I began to really appreciate how open source and adaptable they have the potential to be. SmarterPlay came to a pause when Meghan went on her vacation, so we began to work on our Healthcare Mapping project.

 
Paths for one of our smarterPLAY mapping sessions, written using Princeton's StdDraw java library

Paths for one of our smarterPLAY mapping sessions, written using Princeton's StdDraw java library

 

Healthcare Mapping has been a very interesting experience - as someone who has been relatively healthy for most of their life, it was my first ever visit to a hospital emergency room. As I shadowed the nurses, I got to talk to them a bit and learned a lot about the field and their work. I had always wanted to learn more about medicine and the sorts of diseases people have even though I never really had any plans to be a doctor.

Various prints of interns

Various prints of interns

Between these two main ventures, I got to do a lot of work on various other cool projects, such as ENT 3D printing, Health Insights 215, and a gummy 3D printing project, and have also been taking care of various tasks around the vault. Thanks to being in the group doing ENT 3D printing, I finally got to learn how to prepare 3D models to be printed and what settings affect prints - something I always felt that I should have learned in high school in the computer club. I have already used these skills to print small statues of our intern team as well as a couple of statues and other doodads. Health Insights 215 has also been a lot of fun, although I’ve only been to a couple and got completely rained out by one. Then, near the end of the summer, I hopped in on a new project that involves 3D printing medicine in the form of gummies so that pharmacies can make it more palatable and fun for children while not losing chemical accuracy.

I have otherwise spent a lot of time in the lab working on various pet projects. I spent the entire summer trying to get the Oculus Rift not to crash with absolutely no avail, but I have been upkeeping this website fairly successfully. I also started to learn a bit of Android development in an attempt to write an app for these cool bluetooth tags called Estimotes we were briefly considering using for smarterPlay, but I don't think I’ll end up finishing by the end of the summer. That being said, the studying I have done for it has come in very useful as I now know a lot more about creating apps and will hopefully be able to write one sometime in the future.

Got featured on twitter!

Got featured on twitter!

A dog from a healthcare popup

A dog from a healthcare popup

Bon treated us to dinner!

Bon treated us to dinner!

Learning new things has actually been a huge part of this summer for me. I initially came here hoping to find some sort of enlightenment that would help me focus my future career direction as a chemical engineer. However, as I got completely sidetracked playing with the technology here, I seem to have jumped in deeper to computer science and decided to try studying a bit more when I get back to school. This doesn’t mean, however, that what I’ve done here is for nothing - while most of the people around me are doctors I have also had plenty of guidance as to the other jobs that exist in healthcare, such as pharmaceuticals or toxicology that might be more suitable for an engineering background. I also have been starting to realize that by applying myself and doing my best, I can actually learn a lot of new things and pick up new skills. When I get back to school, I think I would like to establish something similar to the makerspace we have here, in order to help other engineers have the same cool experiences I’ve had, and keep working on what I've started to learn in my time here.