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First Step Program


Innovative Student Solutions to Challenging Health Issues

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Have a great idea for an innovative way to promote healthy living?

Got a plan for a new process or design that would revolutionize health care delivery?

We want to hear it!

The CHS Dean’s Office will be funding innovative student projects focused on addressing challenging health issues.

All applications and questions to lafave@udel.edu

First Step – Social Innovation

Important Dates
Project Proposal Due Date September 26, 2014
Project Proposal Award Date October 13, 2014
Written Project Report Due Date March 13, 2015
to lafave@udel.edu
Oral/PowerPoint Project Result Presentations March 25, 2015 -
March 27, 2015
Awards' symposium for outstanding projects April 24, 2015 at 6:30PM in the STAR Campus Atrium

Currently Funded Projects

Banda Birthing Kits (Combatting High Infant Mortality Rates in Rwanda) - By following the World Health Organization’s guidelines for a clean birth the goal is to decrease the devastating maternal and infant mortality rates of Banda, Rwanda. Plan to accomplish this by providing an easily carried personal pack of supplies that will assist with the birth process and maintain a more sterile environment. Providing these supplies will decrease the risk of infection that can be introduced when using dirty or reused equipment, therefore decreasing the maternal and infant mortality rates in this vulnerable population.

Building a Food Truck - An Innovative Medium for Nutritious, Healthful Foods - The primary goal for this project is to garner help and support in creating a business plan for this food truck. The business plan will eventually be used as a tool to pitch and acquire the truck. It is anticipated that other universities offering dietetic programs might adopt the prototype for the truck. Although changing food habits is difficult, the truck may be a way to initiate small change in eating patterns. If more food trucks begin to offer flavorful and healthful foods, this could make a great impact in the Newark community and ripple throughout the area. The secondary goal is to make UD students more competitive in the dietetics internship process, to bridge colleges resulting in collaborative undergraduate research, and to provide a new venue for nutrition education to the UD and Newark communities.

Community Harvesting - Poor nutrition is linked with a variety of diseases. Often, pre-packaged food is unhealthy and the list of ingredients hard to understand. This program will help people understand how to prepare healthy food. Centered around a community-based education program that educates people about healthy food alternatives in a social setting.

Community Paramedicine - Emergency medicine services are not widely available in rural areas. Within these business, the billing plans are not uniform. To reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction, this EMS project will build on last years success and implement a uniform billing model, and implement a training program for EMT providers that address patient needs.

Designing a Low-Cost, Lower-Extremity Prosthetic Limb for Biking - Prosthetic limbs are designed for daily tasks (walking, climbing stairs). There are specialized prosthetic limbs for high intensity exercise, but they are expensive. This project will create a low-cost prosthetic limb for biking.

Fighting Obesity Paw by Paw - The majority of pet owners are sedentary and obesity is common in this group. Further, there is a correlation between pet obesity and the BMI of the owner. This project will inform pet owners of obesity risks for pet and owner, then develop a motivational program that promotes pet walking.

Hands-On Orthopaedic Biomechanics Curriculum for K12 Classroom - Very few women enter into STEM related careers. This project will mimic the Perry Initiative (recruits, fosters women involvement in STEM at Colleges, Universities) and implement in Grades 7-12. Using the 'TILT' method of instruction, develop a curriculum to encourage students (women) to consider careers in bioengineering, orthotics, prosthetics.

MRI Dynamometer - Children with cerebral palsy have spastic movements that are not well understood. Muscle movements in response to spasticity can be problematic to analyze when performing MRI. Thus, there is a need for a device that can measure muscle movement within the context of an MRI.Develop an MRI compatible device that can measure muscle movement in the legs, lower shank during MRI. Here, the device will measure muscle force during voluntary foot extension, in the MRI.

Powered Exoskeleton to Increase Human Performance - Workplace injuries due to overexertion can affect employee health and productivity. The goal is to develop an exoskeleton that can reduce force and load and employees who perform manual labor could reduce health risks and increase productivity.

Prognostic Driving Simulator Device for Return-to-Drive Testing - Upon lower limb injury, patient recovery will entail regaining an ability to drive. Devices that help a patient learn to drive again are not deemed realistic in feel. Thus, patients return to driving unprepared. The goal is to develop a device that measures driving preparedness more accurately that is also cost-effective.

SmartBoot: An Instrumented Clinical Walking Boot - Patients with foot/leg injuries will wear a padded walking boot and talk to walk in a fashion that favors pressure on the foot, which cannot be quantified. Often, recovery time is variable. The goal is to develop a walking boot with sensors that measure force and pressure, and the data will be downloaded for analysis by the patient and clinical care worker (physical therapists).

The Monkey See, Monkey Do Campaign Ver. 2.0 - Poor diet selection is influenced by economics and learned behavior, over time. There is a need to educate parents to choose healthy food choices over poor nutrition quality foods to teach their children about proper eating. Building on last year's program that determined displaying healthy options next to poor options promoted parents to choose higher quality food, the program will now develop a formal food selection program at a grocery store and collect data on sales.

Thoracic Simulation System - Clinical training requires simulation robotics and patient actors. There is a need for low-cost robotic devices that can interface with patient actors to simulate clinical conditions. Here, they will simulate breathing problems. The goal is to create a vest that a patient actor can wear that simulates breathing problems.

Vibrosocket for Lower Limb Amputees to Increase Muscle Activity - Upon amputation, residual limbs can atrophy over time and cause other clinical problems. Vibration therapy stimulate vasculargenesis and healthy partial limb function. The goal is to make a device that fits over or around a residual limb that affects vibrations and massaging interactions that promote healthy residual limb function.

Wearable Training System for Urinary Catheterization - Hospital acquired infections are very frequently associated with urinary catheterizations. There are no suitable training devices for urinary catheterization on the market. The goal is to build a simulation device that can be worn by a patient actor, that contains sensors that can prompt patient reaction to a correctly performed or mis performed procedure.


fill out application

Examples of projects include but are not limited to: biomedical research, medical practice, health advocacy, health policy, health management, health informatics, community-based research or related health areas. The solutions may be a device or product, a business model, an organization, a policy or a process or procedure that offers an improvement to health care or healthy living, but are not limited to those categories. There are a variety of approaches that could be developed, including developing new health care policies, inventing a device, outlining a change in best practices, developing new and better ways to evaluate outcomes. In addition, there are ideas that might be developed as intellectual property or small start-up businesses.

First Step in the Press


The College of Health Sciences invites CHS undergraduate students, or teams of students led by a CHS undergraduate, to (a) identify important challenges in healthcare and healthy living and (b) develop novel solutions to those challenges.

Students will prepare a proposal application that focuses on an important aspect of health care, develop a potential solution to that problem, and present their solution for review. CHS will provide $500 funding to each of the top 20 applications to identify a health care problem and articulate a potential solution to that problem.

The students will have six months to develop their solution, which could be a policy, application, device or best practice, but is not limited to those categories. Written reports and oral presentations of the student’s or team’s results and solution will be evaluated by a faculty committee.

All students will be invited to present their solutions at a public symposium in the form of a poster, where the top three students will give a short oral presentation and cash prizes of $1500, $1000 and $500 awarded to the top three students or teams. Students and Teams will be connected with experts order to develop a dialogue about the merits of their ideas and how they can move forward to pursue and further develop their ideas. If students develop applications or devices that they feel warrant consideration as intellectual property or patent protection, they should communicate this fact to their faculty advisor two months in advance of the symposium presentation (April 25, 2014) so that appropriate paperwork can be filled out in order to protect their ideas or invention.

Award Process

These 3-5 page applications should be submitted to the College of Health Sciences Dean’s Office via email (chs-info@udel.edu) by 5:00 pm, September 26, 2014. They will be reviewed by a committee of 5 faculty members for merit, and the top 20 students or student teams will be awarded up to $500 to pursue their research project idea. Students will be assigned a faculty project advisor and will meet with the advisor once per month to provide updates on progress.

Use of Funds

Funds may be used to purchase resource information, travel, expenses related to interviews of patients, and expenses associated with team meetings or other uses related to the development of the project solution. Funds may not be used for enrollment fees, salaries or personal living expenses.

Completion of Project

At the end of the 6 months, a 3-5 page report will be provided to the Associate Dean of Research by 5:00 pm, March 13, 2015 and students will be responsible for (a) preparing their report in the form of a poster (CHS will assist) and creating a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation that summarizes the research health challenge they addressed, the reason the problem is significant, current approaches and then the student or teams suggested approach, which should also be provided. These reports will be evaluated by the awards committee in order to prepare the committee for oral presentations.

Presentation of Results

The students will also present their results in the form of a PowerPoint presentation to the review committee for evaluation (March 25, 2015). Projects will be reviewed based on (a) the significance of the problem to be addressed, (b) innovation, (c) practical ability to develop the idea and apply the solution to real world problems. The committee will rank the top 3 projects based on the review criteria and the quality of their written and oral presentations.


All presentations will be prepared as a poster and displayed at a public symposium on April 25, 2015. The top 3 projects will be invited to summarize their results at the symposium and prizes awarded for 1st place ($1500), 2nd place ($1000) and 3rd place ($500) to the winning student or team.

The symposium will take place at a venue that will provide dinner for students and teams, faculty participants and invited guests.


After the awards are made, the winning student or teams will be directed to interact with experts in the area of their study in order to help the student or team to understand how their idea might be implemented or developed and applied for real world applications. Students may elect to develop their ideas in undergraduate or graduate research training programs, or in the private sector.

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