McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University
News from McCormick
Northwestern Teams Win DiabetesMine.com Design Competition
Two Northwestern University teams took home the top two prizes awarded in the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge, which asked teams to create new tools for improving life with diabetes.
The top winners were Eric Schickli, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Engineering Design and Innovation program in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Samantha Katz, a graduate student in the MMM program, a joint MBA and Master of Engineering Management program between the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. For their efforts, they received a $10,000 prize.
The competition — run by the diabetes information web site www.diabetesmine.com — was open to anyone, and judges received more than 150 entries, many from top universities across the country.
Schickli and Katz’s winning design was called the LifeCase and LifeApp system, a combined hardware and software system for iPhones that combines a lancer, test strips, a glucose meter, wireless insulin pump management, and disease management software all in one package.
Both heard about the contest through the Segal Design Institute in March, and they decided to team up to create a device. Katz is interested in entering the medical device industry after graduation in June, while Schickli had a personal motivation.
“I was looking for an independent study project, and my mother is a Type I diabetic, so I knew this would be a way I could help diabetics like her,” he says. “She also had a network of people that we could tap for user interviews.”
By interviewing diabetics and researching diabetic products, the two quickly learned the main complaint about diabetic devices.
“Diabetics have to carry around cases filled with multiple devices to test their blood glucose, and it’s so cumbersome,” Katz says.
“They were all looking for devices that could improve their lives and make diabetes take up less of their day,” Schickli says. They decided that an interface that combined aspects of diabetes management into one convenient device would be ideal. They created some initial sketches and made changes based on user reaction.
“One woman we talked to does yoga, and she said that when she does certain poses, the insulin pump gets in the way,” Katz says. “Moving the pump’s interface to the phone allows the pump to be made smaller and lighter, so it is less obtrusive and easier to manage.”
Their final design is a modified iPhone case, complete with a glucose meter, lancer, and strip storage. The software interface combines diabetes management software, insulin pump management software, and logs of meals and glucose readings. Now that they’ve won the contest they hope to continue improving the prototype through additional user research, researching existing patents, assessing the market, and creating a business plan.
“I’m really excited about this,” Katz says. “I think it has a lot of potential, and I’d love to see it move forward.”
The Most Creative award ($5,000) was won by an undergraduate team of Design for America students: Kushal Amin, Can Arican, Hannah Chung, Rita Huen, Mert Iseri, Kevin Li, Justin Liu, Yuri F. Malina, Katy Mess, and Sourya Roy. Involvement in the project crosses the borders of McCormick — students from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education and Social Policy also participate.
Their design, "Jerry the Bear with Diabetes," is an interactive stuffed toy and web-based play space for children with diabetes. Design for America is a new student led initiative that creates social impact through human centered participatory design.
Says the competition web site: “The judges felt that this interactive toy, and the accompanying web play space — something like Webkinz for diabetic kids — could be an excellent teaching tool for newly diagnosed children. It’s the kind of thing we could see being employed in hospitals around the country.”
Elizabeth Gerber, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and adviser of Design for America, says: "The Design for America team is a passionate group of student leaders who have accepted the challenge of designing a better world using the skills and friendships they are developing at Northwestern. They have a bias towards action and are highly motivated to improve the lives of their community at Northwestern, in Chicago, and beyond. I am very proud of their accomplishments and am honored to advise the team."
Schickli says the design community at Northwestern fosters the kind of design-thinking needed to create innovative solutions.
“I think it says something about the programs that we have here in terms of the school’s ability to create students that attack real-world problems and come up with winning solutions,” he says.