Lincoln Academy senior Alejandro E. Ramos Sánchez may have a patent-worthy idea. As part of his LA Anatomy and Physiology class, Alejandro designed a small valve that, in his words, “would treat conditions like phlebitis, valvular problems in the legs, deep vein thrombosis, and would prevent embolisms in vital organs like the heart, lungs, and brain. It would also be a good treatment for patients with blood flow problems and weak hearts by redistributing the blood flow and enhancing its movement.”
“In class this year we’re trying to integrate real world applications of the study of human anatomy and physiology,” said Lincoln Academy Anatomy and Physiology teacher Maya Crosby. “My co-teacher (Eric Duffy, RN/WEMT) is a medical professional, and we’re working case studies of various kinds into our curriculum, as well as a certification in First Aid, discussions of ethics, and the use of technology. Alejandro was inspired to apply what he was learning to an actual biomedical problem – which was exactly what we were hoping would happen with the class!”
Once Ramos envisioned and sketched his idea, the next step was to make a model that people could see and understand. Enter Nate Courtenay, an LA senior employed in Lincoln Academy’s Cable-Burns Applied Technology and Engineering Center as a work-based learning student. In that role, he has gained significant experience with Lincoln’s 3D printing technologies.
“Alejandro came to me with a sketch on a piece of paper and the goal of having a three-dimensional model of his idea,” said Courtenay. “We tossed some ideas back and forth about the design, and found some images and models to go off of. I walked him through the whole process of designing and printing, and after a couple of test prints, he eventually had the final model. It was a great experience to teach a fellow student about the cutting-edge technology we have in the Applied Technology and Engineering Center, and I speak for all of Lincoln Academy when I say we’re very proud of him for his accomplishment!”
“I 3D printed a model of the valve at ATEC. It basically is a modified Tesla valve that contains small metal sieves inside to prevent plungers from moving along the inner thighs,” explained Alejandro, who said he wanted “to start doing experiments and see the design’s effect on the fluid dynamics of blood flowing around.”
In April Alejandro took the printed valve, which is smaller than a clothespin, to the Maine Science Festival at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, where he took home two awards for his invention: the Maine Math and Science Alliance Prize for student excellence from a newly participating school, and Third Prize for a Biological Sciences and Engineering entry.
Lincoln Academy English Teacher Seth Anderson, who accompanied Alejandro to the event, said, “He impressed the judges with his medical and engineering knowledge. A retired surgeon advised him to seek a patent immediately!”
“Alejandro’s project would not have been possible without the technology and expertise of the teachers and students in the ATEC building,” said Lincoln Academy Head of School David Sturdevant. “This is just the kind of project that this facility makes possible, and the kind of innovative learning we are trying to encourage.”
“For me this was mainly having an idea that sounded cool,” said Ramos. “It seemed like something interesting that I came up with. I got challenged to put it in a science fair by my roommate, so I decided to really try it, and I talked to my teachers, Ms. Crosby, Mr. Topper, my Engineering teacher, and it was really cool to get my hands on actually working on the idea. The more I started talking with people, the more uses started coming up.”
He acknowledges that new technology helped set his idea apart. “3D printers are a game changer. Literally anyone who has an idea has the possibility of making it. I am just a teenager. Think of all the stuff other people could do with a 3D printer and an idea! The difference between having just the concept, and having an actual object to experiment on is the difference between philosophy and actual science.”
Ramos, who plans to return to his native Spain for college and eventually, medical school, is modest about his invention. “I did have a small idea… It is just an idea, but the more I work on it with my teachers the more utilities I find for it.”