- Programs & Services
- Resources & Publications
- Grants & Awards
- CRLT Players
Friday Profile: Kathleen Sienko, Winner of 2012 Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize
As teachers at an institution committed to "global engagement," how can U-M instructors best facilitate students' international experiences and connections? And how can we enable students to make meaningful differences in the world? Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Kathleen Sienko has been a campus leader on these questions, developing programs that take students around the world as well as programs that enable students here in Ann Arbor to make and mobilize global connections utilizing the resources of the internet.
Design for Global Health. Sienko was honored with the 2012 Teaching Innovation Prize for this capstone program she developed for undergraduate engineering students. Under Sienko's guidance, in collaboration with Dr. Aileen Huang-Saag and building on several long-standing U-M connections in Africa, students in the program have worked with clinicians in resource-limited settings--initially in Ghana, then in other African countries and China--to design medical devices to address needs in specific areas of global health (e.g., maternal health, infant mortality, or HIV/AIDS). Student designs have included an assisted obstetric delivery device, a multi-functional labor and delivery bed, and an adult male circumcision tool. Through a combination of field work, course work, cross-cultural training, and hands-on design experience, students in the program learn to define problems, adjust their solutions to accommodate real-world limitations, and collaborate in culturally-sensitive ways.
Statements by student participants reflect the program's emphasis on using action-based learning
to inspire and equip undergraduates to tackle pressing global health challenges:
- "It was truly a transformative experience, and I consider it one of the best investments of my time as an engineering student at Michigan. In little more than 6 months, participants have the chance to identify a unique design challenge, travel to a foreign country, develop an innovative device, and fully engage in the design process."
- "I am still incredibly proud of the work that I did during that class and the success it has since garnered. We successfully published the work we did during senior design ... and even spun the technology off into a startup company."
Global Health Compendium. This year, Sienko and her students have launched a wiki inventorying medical devices suitable for resource-limited settings: the Global Health Medical Device Compendium. Like the Design for Global Health program, the dynamic database focuses on low-cost, sustainable technologies: devices that can be used in the absence of, for instance, instruction manuals, dependable electric supplies, clean water, or access to replacement parts. The project grew out of Sienko's 2010 Design for Global Health course, beginning when--recognizing no good textbook for the course existed--she tasked her students with researching health-related technologies that could address the global health challenges they were studying. While building the database, Sienko and her students also collaborated with the World Health Organization on the compilation and publication of their annual compendia (in 2010, 2011, and 2012) of innovative technologies. Though the wiki project draws upon expertise of researchers and designers around the world, almost all of the work of gathering and cataloguing information took place on U-M's campus. Now the wiki provides a dynamic resource for clinicians and policy-makers worldwide.
Some recent press coverage of Professor Sienko's work (plus a TED Talk video!) can be found at the links below:
For more information on the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize, click here. To learn about other outstanding teachers at U-M, click on the "Friday Profiles" tag below.