Healthcare Theatre device selected as first-place technology innovation winner

The University of Delaware’s Healthcare Theatre Program went high tech earlier this year when a group of engineering students designed and fabricated SimuTrach, a device that provides realistic training for the care of tracheostomy patients.

An overlay worn by actors playing the role of patients in simulation training, SimuTrach is a new tool in the program, which helps health care professionals develop communication and treatment skills through interactive scenarios presented by simulated performers.

Now the learning device has been selected as the first-place technology innovation winner by the 15th International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare(IMSH 2015) Scientific Content Committee, which referred to the overlay system as “exceptional work.”

Students Brad Biggs, Devon Bond and Nick Campagnola (biomedical engineering), along with Ed Doll and Nate Hott (mechanical engineering), developed the first SimuTrach prototype in a mechanical engineering design class taught by assistant professor Jenni Buckley at the request of nursing instructor and Healthcare Theatre co-founder Amy Cowperthwait. Francis Rivera (electrical engineering) joined the team later.

They further developed the device through First Step, a program in the College of Health Sciences designed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among undergraduates. The project received the first-place award in First Step, where additional funding and mentoring will facilitate taking the project to the next level.

SimuTrach has also been adopted into the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships’ Spin In program, which matches entrepreneurs developing innovative early-stage technology with a team of UD business students to further develop both the technology and the marketing strategy.

As an award winner, Cowperthwait has been invited to present an oral presentation of the work at IMSH 2015, which will be held in New Orleans from Jan. 10-14, 2015.

SimuTrach is currently on its third prototype, with each version offering improved features and functionality, from the lung sound to the skin feel.

The team is now working on branding, pricing, identifying partners, and creating a marketing plan. They have identified up to 5,000 potential customers for the device in the U.S. alone, including nursing institutions, respiratory therapy clinics, and medical practices.

About Healthcare Theatre

Healthcare Theatre, a unique interdisciplinary program created at the University of Delaware, helps health care professionals develop psychosocial skills through interactive scenarios presented by simulated performers. This innovative program began in 2009 as a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Department of Theatre.

With this transformative approach to education, health sciences students can practice both technical and interpersonal skills in a safe environment without compromising quality of care, and future managers can practice skills crucial to providing good service.

In 2013, the Healthcare Theatre team developed two patented products that are worn over the actor, a Tracheostomy Care Overlay System and an Overlay Chest Compressor. Now the health care learners can perform tracheostomy care as well as practice real CPR techniques on the simulated performers without risk to them. These two inventions were built, tested, and marketed by a unique collaboration among four of colleges at UD: Engineering, Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, and the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

This year, four new patented inventions are being built by engineers and fashion artists and tested by health care providers on actors. Marketing will be handled by business students.

EngineeringWinning simulation