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CASE 1: "Combatting Pandemic Wall" submitted by Carilion Clinic

 About Carilion Clinic: Carilion Clinic is a non-profit health care organization based in Roanoke, Virginia. Through their comprehensive network of hospitals, primary and specialty physician practices and other complementary services, Carilion works together to provide quality care close to home for nearly 1 million Virginians. Carilion Clinic seeks to advance care through medical education and research.

Case Details: Burnout rates for nurses and physicians, or Health Care Workers (HCWs) more broadly, were greater than the general population prior to the COVID-19 crisis. During the pandemic, levels of burnout among HCWs have only increased due to longer work hours, ambiguity about rules and regulations, concerns about availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), and shortages of key resources (e.g., ventilators). In areas that have been hit hard by the pandemic (e.g., Italy, China, and the USA) those numbers may be even higher. The additional challenges of moral distress and even moral injury exacerbate the impact of these factors. During this pandemic response, there is no clear end point, nor is there a clear timeline for response phases.

This feeling of ‘no end point’ has been termed ‘pandemic wall’ or ‘ambiguous loss’. Due to continued variations in the disease itself, alongside of a challenging vaccine roll out, the ‘end’ remains unclear. In addition, it is increasingly important for individuals to continue to mask, social distance and be safe, even after administration of the vaccine.

Your task is to develop an intervention that can help exhausted clinicians communicate to and ensure safety behaviors are occurring (e.g. washing hands, wearing a mask, staying home when feeling sick) with their patients and colleagues on a just-in-time, user-tailored way. Use of human centered design principles is critical, as the target user group is both clinicians and ultimately the lay public. Please consider dissemination and implementation challenges as well in your intervention development.

For a pdf version, click here.

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CASE 2 : "The Cellink Green Initiative Challenge" submitted by Cellink

About Cellink: Cellink is the first bioink company revolutionizing bioprinting. Bioinks are materials used to produce engineered/artificial live tissue using 3D printing.  In 2016, Cellink commercialized the world's first universal bioink--an innovation 8 years in the making. They now have 3 successful acquisitions and several high-profile product launches making them much more than a bioprinting company. In just 4.5 years, Cellink has achieved $1 billion in market valuation and thus has achieved unicorn status. By combining advances in biology, engineering, big data, and AI, they are now the top bio-convergence company in the world, creating the future of medicine. 

Case Details: Create and develop new ways to reduce waste products generated from the biotechnology industry.

The CELLINK Green Initiative is a general initiative with the goal of reducing the use of plastics and other waste generated within the biotechnology sector. This is a way that we, as a company, can contribute to sustainability in the field of biotechnology by reducing waste generated by the industry.

C.Wash ImageAs an example, a benefit to the Green Initiative is a reduction in plastic waste from pipette tips, money is saved through the reduction of a consumable item, time is saved through more efficient processes, and the environment is positively affected. One of our products, the C.WASH, was exclusively designed for this purpose by eliminating the need for pipette tips during plate washing processes. A second product, the I-DOT, performs contactless droplet dispensing, eliminating the need for hand pipetting. This system, in effect, reduces wasteful pipette tip disposal by eliminating their need. There are many areas for improvement in the field of biotechnology where waste could be effectively reduced.

Examples of problems:

  • Plastic syringes are widely used and are one of the largest sources of plastic waste in the      industry. How else can you dispense biomedical fluids without a syringe and without cross-contamination? What processes can be automated that could eliminate the need for syringes altogether?
  • Production of certain biomaterials can generate chemical waste.  Can we reuse this waste downstream in other processes?  Can we eliminate this waste altogether or find another use for it instead of disposing it?

Solution Requirements:

  • The solution should provide significant positive environmental and business impact.

Response Requirements:

  1. Clearly identify a problem related to waste generated in the biotechnology industry.
  2. Design a solution or product to solve the identified problem.
  3. Prove that the solution is significantly beneficial to both the environment and has a positive business impact.

For a pdf version, click here.

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CASE 3: "Powering Docking Platforms for Small Drones" submitted by Cowden Technologies 

About Cowden Technologies: Cowden Technologies, LLC was founded in 2015 with a primary focus on providing software engineering services for external clients. While the company is still providing limited software consulting services, the focus has shifted to product development of autonomous robotic systems. The company is currently developing autonomous drone technology that can enable remote environment management without requiring human supervision.

Case Details: Cowden Technologies, LLC is looking for practical, cost effective, and environmentally conscious solutions for powering docking platforms for small drones. This case asks how Cowden Technologies, LLC can use only or primarily renewable energy to recharge electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles while docked with a platform capable of recharging batteries, such as Cowden Technologies’s smart docking station for drones​.                               

The goals are to:

  • Enable drone docking station operation in remote areas where there is limited access to traditional power grids and where it is unsafe or cost ineffective for personnel to work.
  • Promote the use of renewable energy early in the development and deployment stages of autonomous drone technology.

Desired solution characteristics:

  • Provide research on how different renewable energy technologies have been used as a dedicated power source for non-trivial installations (successful or otherwise)
  • Cost-benefit analysis of each recommended technology

For a pdf version, click here.

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CASE 4 : "The Deployment of Driverless Operations towards Improving Accessibility and Mobility for the Disabled" submitted by Virginia Tech Transporation Institute (VTTI)

About Virginia Tech Transportation Institute: The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) conducts research to save lives, time, and money and protect the environment. As one of seven premier research institutes created by Virginia Tech to answer national challenges, VTTI is continually advancing transportation through innovation and has affected public policy on national and international levels. VTTI has grown from approximately 15 faculty, staff, and students to become the second largest university-level transportation institute in the U.S. with over 500 employees. VTTI has effected significant change in public policies for driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety and is advancing the design of vehicles and infrastructure to increase safety and reduce environmental impacts. In all endeavors, the VTTI community is charged with finding solutions to the greatest transportation challenges facing not only the nation but the world. The faculty, staff, and students of VTTI are truly dedicating their lives to saving lives.

Case Details: The past six years we have all observed a dramatic increase in global activity surrounding the development of vehicles functioning under driverless operation. Technology has finally caught up allowing for significant advancements in sensors and computing power, thus catalyzing the opportunities that the automotive industry is most certainly taking advantage of. Opportunities such as significantly reducing human error involved in crashes (highest contributing factor to crash risk), creating new mobility options for those who can’t drive, and opening up new business models for servicing society in innovative ways. Currently the industry is focused foremost on serving highly populated regions through the deployment of driverless operations for the taxi services use case. This early adopter market segment has many benefits, the most critical of which is a business model that allows for a positive return on investment for such a costly endeavor. However, there is one area that is missing focus that could use significant attention earlier rather than later, and that is deploying driverless operations towards improving accessibility and mobility for people with disabilities.

Driverless operations have the potential to not only provide unique and novel affordances for permanently disabled people, but also for people who have been temporarily injured and require mobility support. Disabilities are a worldwide transportation concern. It has been estimated that approximately 1 in 5 people [19%] in the U.S. has a disability (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012), and at least 7% of people in China are reported to be disabled. In the U.S., 2-3% of the population are estimated to be blind (NFB, 2014), and over 16% who have some type of physical functioning disability (CDC, 2015). Imagine the benefits that self-driving technology could provide for the disabled. Imagine helping people who by virtue of their disability have never had true independence of mobility.

Although the automotive industry is moving quickly on the advancement of driverless operations, a focus on serving people with disabilities will unfortunately lag behind. VTTI is dedicated to our university motto “Ut Prosim” (That I May Serve). We believe that a new global commitment to this topic is required. VTTI is a global top three transportation research institute trusted by literally hundreds of sponsors throughout government and industry and thousands of contacts around the world. We are in a unique position to act as a catalyst through uniting transportation stakeholders around the world, and move this center stage. A successful effort in this area will unofficially put VTTI as the “go-to” research organization for leveraging automation towards improving the human experience.          

Challenge: How can VTTI catalyze this issue of designing and deploying services under a driverless operation model for the disabled?

  • Are there certain segments of the disabled population that should be prioritized? Why? What will be the challenges that disabled riders encounter when using driverless operation vehicles (ride-hailing, pre-boarding communication, navigation, safe disembarking, localization? Which geographic regions around the globe? Why?
  • How do we engage industry stakeholders (original equipment manufacturers, suppliers, tech companies) to prioritize this opportunity? What are the “carrots” that can elevate the importance of this customer segment?
  • What are key public agencies and organizations that VTTI can bring together? Federal agencies (USDOT, NSF, NIH, NFB)? Regional agencies (state DOTs, municipalities)?
  • Are there resources beyond VTTI’s current portfolio that are needed to accelerate research in this area?
  • What key relationships/partnerships are required?

For a pdf version, click here.

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