Upgrading our professional backgrounds…

Align and learn together 

Our team consisted of Søren who is a medical doctor with experience in different specialities and Tine who is a researcher with a background in biomedical engineering. As the programme is intense and you have to work closely in the teams, we put a lot of effort in aligning and understanding each other’s expectations from the beginning. It has been interesting to work closely with one person where you need to compromise and find common interests for the project to be equally motivated. As a team you learn both individually and together and are pushed to explore barriers and corners outside your comfort zones.   

Speaking a common language

Even though we have two different backgrounds in our team, we quickly realized that our “language” was quite similar due to Tine’s interest and working experience in the clinical environment and Søren’s interest in the technical elements of hospital equipment. As we were not so different in our knowledge and working habits, the teamwork seemed to develop relatively effortlessly. In a team of two persons the interdisciplinarity is limited and thus, we took the opportunity to seek interdisciplinary inputs to a larger extent among our co-fellows and through the massive BMD-network.  

Identifying needs

We have been in the clinic to do observations and to find needs. This was an individual process where all fellows brought their observations into the team. This included both different observations and overlapping observations, which led to clarifying discussions in the team. The team process of narrowing down all the identified needs was dependent on many elements including interests, competences and ambition levels.  

Prepared to go into the clinical immersion to do observation and identify needs which you can bring into the team phase.  

Creative, crazy and cool ideas  

It has been an eye-opener to go through the creative and iterative process of ideation-, prototesting- and co-creation sessions realizing how far you can develop and build on ideas with relatively fast and cheap methods. It has been a fun process allowing for crazy and unrealistic ideas to be used as inspiration to come up with cool ideas.  

In our team we spend a lot of time understanding the problems we worked with. We researched the literature to get a deeper understanding about the physiology and the root causes of the problems and procedures related to the unmet needs. It was valuable to get a lot of questions and sparring with our co-fellows.  

Scenario training presenting the clinical situation with a new solution for co-fellows. You need to understand the workflow for the clinicians and the patients and the root causes of the problem.  

Iterating for a suited solution 

Fun days with introduction to arduinos as a tool for building prototypes with functionalities.  

The process of finding a solution has both been fun and frustrating and you learn to make decisions based on limited information within certain time frames. We were introduced to different types of prototyping to be able to build more tangible low cost mock-ups of our solutions using e.g. 3D printing, electronics and digital prototypes.  

Before narrowing down to focus on a few solutions we went back to the clinic to talk to stakeholders to get more knowledge about their requirements for a solution. In that process it was amazing to experience how willing people are to share their knowledge and the eagerness to help us further in the process. Also, when you meet people who are more critical to your ideas, it provides a lot of valuable insight when you remember to ask why they think your solution wouldn’t work. You also have to be prepared to get a lot of different answers and inputs to your questions. All contributing to enhance your knowledge about the problem and the solution.  

We work with a high risk/high reward project and it is always interesting to talk to different people even with the same professional background as they identify the risks associated with the project differently. The unmet need we try to address has been difficult to attack until we tried flipping it and asked what THIS solution could do compared to state of the art.  

There have been ups and downs during the project. The learning curve has been steep and it has been challenging to make the right strategies. Right now we work on de-risking specific areas of the project and we attempt to acquire funding to proceed. We feel obligated to try to find out if our solution can be a candidate solution to this important unsolved problem. 

How to pick up electronic skills

While I am not experienced with tech-things like 3D-printing, digital prototyping or electronic devices, I am certainly always up for a challenge. I love learning new skills and for this reason, I was particularly excited about the prototyping workshops, we had as part of the Creative Skills Phase.

My background is nursing but…

I am Nanna. Before joining the BioMedical Design Programme, I worked at Aarhus University Hospital for six years at the Department of Endocrinology and Internal medicine. Most recently I worked at the Department of Mother and Child.

Working as a nurse involves numerous different tasks, and many are very hands-on. I have always enjoyed working with procedures such as insertion of catheters and feeding tubes because they require a certain dexterity and specific skills.

In my private life, I also love creating things with my own hands and learning-by-doing, that being knitting, gardening, or putting up lamps and shelves in my home.

I want to challenge status quo

Teambuilding exercise outside the Aarhus office

I applied for the BioMedical Design programme because I sought to broaden my horizons and challenge myself professionally. In my job, I felt I was beginning to increasingly accept bad or mediocre solutions because of the narrative “that’s just how it is”.
I want to continuously be able to challenge the status quo and therefore the BMD programme felt like a perfect match for me. Learning about design thinking and improving my skills as a facilitator have been some of my favourite parts of the programme so far, and these are skills I will be able to use in my future career, whatever it may bring.

Going on a learning journey

On March 10th, 2022, my teammate Gülçin and I took a train from Aarhus Central station at 5.55 am. We had a long day ahead of us. We were scheduled to visit the Danish Technical University (DTU) in Lyngby and spend the entire day being introduced to the Aduino platform. At DTU we met Jacob Pedersen who described himself as an electronics design engineer and all round hacker. He assured us that he was used to teaching coding to kids at summer camps, and it would be easy-going.

The AHA-moment

We were handed our own kit to start building electronic prototypes, where Jacob quickly got us started on the basics of coding. This is when I remembered that kids are very fast learners, and I really had to focus to keep up with the pace. During the day, I got to experiment with making electronic motors and displays, and by the end of it, I had made a pulse oximeter work on my own! It was an incredible feeling to have made this even though the coding was too advanced for me to comprehend fully at this point.

Knowing the electronic field is good

I am still far from being a programmer, but this was such a cool introduction to an area that I had no prior knowledge about. Now I know that it is possible to do various electronic prototypes without spending significant money or time on it! We are currently experimenting with ultrasound modalities in my team, but since our concept and idea is constantly evolving, we cannot know if we will pivot into a new solution next week. Luckily, we have an electronics-engineer with experience in this field on my team, but the insight I got into coding and user design really benefits me in a way, that I too can be a part of this.

Future possibilities

We are now in the Commercial Skills Phase with the focus of further developing our solution while concomitantly looking into our Intellectual Property, business models and funding strategies. We have a lot of things to do in the next few months, and I am excited to see how far we will be with our solution by the end of the programme.

New Year – New Creative Phase

As we rang in 2021 from home, the Biomedical Design fellows also entered the creative phase – from home.

I have always thought of myself as a naturally creative person. But, having been in academia my whole life where structure and formality (sometimes) outweigh being disruptive, I was so excited by the creative sandbox prepared by our mentor Pernille Kølbæk. Pernille’s expertise as an experience designer and her experience at LEGO, really intrigued me ever since the beginning of the program. It’s not just a fancy title, it also makes a lot of sense. And I have always been curious to learn how “play” is used in driving innovation. The kid in me was ready.

Grounded by Covid-19

But it wasn’t an easy journey. The impacts of COVID-19 were still very much felt around the globe. The situation kept evolving and we were ultimately forced to work from home. So how much play can you actually do during lockdown? Thanks to Pernille’s quick thinking and ability to adapt, she redesigned the whole curriculum to work in an online space. And from my perspective, it actually worked out for the best!

New situation – new tools

We kicked-off the creative phase by migrating to Miro, an online collaborative tool, that works pretty much like an electronic whiteboard. It was the perfect medium for doing all the fun activities lined up to exercise our creativity. We started out by unpacking the healthcare needs we had identified by working on a creative design brief. This was quickly followed by the introduction of ideation tools and techniques, with the help of Syddansk Sundhedsinnovation, Randi Lehmann (The “Crazy 8s” is one of my favourites).

Crazy 6 drawings on an early idea on how to protect healthcare staff from radiation.

Rapid prototyping

Using random materials that we could find at home, we were also trained in creating rapid prototypes for our ideas. Given a very short time limit, we were forced to be quick, resourceful, and effective in translating our imagination to something malleable. This proved fun and useful for us in coming up with solutions – ranging all the way from the silly to the promising ones.

Testing, testing, testing

Equipped with the necessary facilitation skills we were able to go out and ideate with external experts and contacts. We were also fortunate to learn from IDEO U teaching lead, Bre Przestrzelski, on the essentials in facilitating co-creative sessions. In collaboration with the Kitchen, Aarhus University’s start-up hub, Pernille prepared two ideation sessions for us to practice our facilitation skills in. Leaning into the program’s timeline, my team, composed of Camilla Waldstrøm, Mercedes Marin, and I, organised four online external ideation sessions with 20 experts from various fields. Tapping into our new learnings, we were able to successfully come up with clearer solution directions for our healthcare needs. To break out of our zoom fatigue, we would sometimes sneak out and work together in person 🙂

Team Sky having a meeting in my living room

And even more testing

To help us see if the solution fits our users, Randi Lehmann returned to give us a workshop on scenario training. This was a very fun workshop where we had to role-play our users in an online space to uncover gaps in the solution. Pernille then invited Martin Ibsen and Peter Lindberg of Syndicate for a very insightful idea exploration and value proposition workshop to help us unwrap the value and potential of our healthcare solution ideas. Martin and Peter challenged us to test our solution hypotheses by testing out our pretotype. My team rose up to the challenge by organising a rapid test on 30 participants over 5 days. Our efforts paid off as this revealed how a small focused experiment can help set the direction of our product development. My team celebrated by sledding down a snow hill and clinking a glass or two (or three).

Team Sky went to the snowy hills of Aarhus to celebrate the successful testing of their pretotype

Structure and formality are needs-to-have after all

Of course, not everything is fun and games, throughout this phase. We were also challenged by issues and sensitivities regarding idea ownership. This was really highlighted by instances where teams working on similar topics had to ideate internally with the same group of people. For me, this emphasized the importance of confidentiality and the use of non-disclosure agreements. It also offered an opportunity for self-reflection, and allowed us to re-visit our team values.

Online session with BIoMedical Design Fellows 2021
Ending Create Skills Phase with a thumbs up

Time for a pitch

At the end of the creative phase, we were tasked to pitch our ideas to the Biomedical Design advisory group. We were nervous, but it turned out to be such a pleasant culmination for all the hard work we have done in this phase. It allowed us to consolidate all our results and bring our ideas one step closer to becoming a start-up. Looking back at what we just went through, Pernille’s creative phase curriculum exceeded my expectations. I might not know how it is sans lockdown, but all I can say is, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.