Wake Forest University School of Medicine Graduate Students Take First Place in International Safety Engineering Design Competition.

July 11, 2007 –  

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A team of Wake Forest University School of Medicine graduate students have won first place in an international safety technology design competition at the 20 th Enhanced Safety of Vehicles Conference held in Lyon, France. The conference is a bi-annual, globally recognized event for the advancement and dissemination of new research in the field of transportation safety. The event is sponsored by the United States Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the French National Institute for Transport and Safety Research (INRETS).

Their winning entry was a functional crash test dummy ‘lung’ to predict injury to the lung in a car crash and to evaluate the safety of automobiles and effectiveness of restraints such as airbags and seatbelts. The winning project was titled, “A Biofidelic Lung Surrogate for Anthropomorphic Test Devices to Predict Pulmonary Contusion Following Motor Vehicle Crash” The pulmonary surrogate predicts lung injury following a blunt impact to the chest, utilizing pressure information. The lung looks and responds similarly to a real lung in a car crash but is built for durability and repeatability. The functional prototype is a step towards developing technologically advanced safety systems that focus on mitigating the growing number of soft tissue injuries seen in motor vehicle crashes.

The team included three graduate students from the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES); Project leader Scott Gayzik, Amber Bonivtch, and Kerry Danelson. The team’s faculty advisor for the project was Dr. Joel Stitzel, an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at WFUSM and technical director of the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University Center for Injury Biomechanics. The students are currently pursuing doctoral degrees in Biomedical Engineering focusing on injury biomechanics.

Entries to this design contest were solicited from leading research universities throughout the world. Participants were asked to submit design concepts from a wide range of issues in automotive safety ranging from vehicle dynamics to biomechanics. The Wake Forest team, along with teams from Stanford University and California Polytechnic Institute were selected to represent the North American region from a larger pool of applicants. The contest winner was selected from a group of eight Universities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. A student team from Trier University in Germany was selected as runner up in the contest for their project, “A System to Measure and Evaluate the Seat Belt Usage Rate in Buses.

The success of the SBES team was made possible by financial contributions from both government and industry sponsors. Financial assistance for the prototype design costs was provided by NHTSA and TRW Automotive. A number of industry partners provided goods and services at a reduced cost including; Endevco, Solid Concepts, Inc., and Materialise, N.V. Prototyping support was provided by local partner, Forsyth Tech. Endevco, and Denton ATD, Inc, a leading dummy manufacturer, provided financial assistance to offset the cost of travel to the conference.

The design team is currently pursuing continued testing and validation work of the pulmonary surrogate and ultimately hope to see this technology integrated into the automotive safety system design process. It may see use in crash test dummies of the future or in improved biomechanical testing to better understand the mechanisms causing lung injury in a car crash.