A redesigned valve that may reduce blood sediment during intravenous therapy won top honors Wednesday at UC Merced's inaugural Innovate to Grow competition.
A team of four UC Merced students worked with Children's Hospital Central California to design a better control valve for when blood is being taken from babies. The current shape – a T – causes blood sediment to form, posing potential health hazard to the young patients. The buildup can put the babies at risk for blood clotting, heart attacks, strokes and even infection.
The students – Gabriel Avila, Adrian Garcia, Hein Lu and Sheena Truong – identified why the blood was leaving sediment and designed a Y-shaped valve that should significantly reduce sediment buildup.
Innovate to Grow featured fourteen teams of UC Merced engineering and management students pitching their solutions to real-world problems faced by local, state and international organizations. Projects included installing turbines in the canals on campus to generate electricity, storing and recycling the city's treated wastewater for municipal use, and reducing noise in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Truong, a senior who's graduating Saturday with a degree in mechanical engineering, said addressing real issues through the competition was a great way to use what she's learned in class.
"Applying my skills to something like this makes it that much more meaningful," she said after the event. "It's a good motivator."
The team plans to further develop and test the design. The group, along with two others, has filed patent applications with the United States government.
The projects were judged by a seven-member panel that included a local lawyer and councilman, a Southern California Edison engineer and PG & E director.
The second place prize went to a team that developed a three-pronged approach to reduce noise in the neonatal ICU at Children's Hospital Central California. Studies have shown that excessive noise can hinder a person's recovery time.
Third place went to a team that developed a system to transport and store excess wastewater from Merced's treatment plant. By reusing the water, the city could avoid using potable water for lawns and fire hydrants. It would also reduce the need for drilling a second well in South Merced, according to the team.
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