Christian Bagg was an excessive athlete who lived to snowboard, climb and cycle.

All of it got here to a jarring halt 26 years in the past when he broke his again snowboarding and was paralyzed from the waist down.

With a background in machining, nevertheless, he rapidly started to design adaptive off-road bikes in order that anybody like him with spinal wire damage may get again exterior and on the paths.

In 2018, Bagg launched an organization referred to as Bowhead, which he and a enterprise associate ran out of his basement. However whereas the off-road bike was a terrific innovation, they wanted assist bringing it to market.

That’s when Bagg discovered a couple of College of Alberta engineering co-op program run in partnership with Edmonton’s Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. 

The Glenrose Rehab Analysis Innovation and Know-how (GRRIT) Hub pays wages for engineering college students to work at small, rising health-technology firms in addition to at health-care amenities —which helps firms and clinicians develop improvements that may finally present important help to sufferers and likewise helps financial success for the industries.

Tatiana Place was the primary scholar from the co-op program to hitch Bowhead. She was within the final levels of her diploma in mechanical and biomedical engineering and wanted yet one more co-op placement earlier than graduating.

“I discovered that I’d be shifting to Calgary and dealing in (Christian’s) basement,” she says. “I did something and every little thing. I constructed the bikes, realized a little bit of welding, did some 3D printing of components for the bikes and ordered from completely different suppliers.”

Place says the perfect half for her was witnessing how dramatically the bikes modified the lives of paraplegic shoppers who had been as soon as once more cell. 

She appreciated her placement a lot she returned to the corporate as manufacturing supervisor after graduating and has helped carry extra co-op college students on board. Bowhead now has a big workplace house, which homes a full workers of engineers, content material creators and athletes who’ve skilled accidents.

Engineering college students achieve hands-on expertise growing well being know-howTatiana Place, the primary scholar from the co-op program to hitch Bowhead and now the corporate’s manufacturing supervisor, works on an adaptive off-road bike. (Photograph: Equipped) 

Bowhead is only one of many small Alberta biomedical firms which have benefited from the co-op program, says the initiative’s founder, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering Gary Faulkner.

Launched 13 years in the past when Faulkner was employed as director of analysis and innovation on the Glenrose, this system raises exterior funding — at the moment about half 1,000,000 {dollars} a 12 months — to offer engineering college students to small firms able to design know-how that helps sufferers rehabilitate from damage.

A lot of that help has come from the College of Engineering, in addition to financial growth businesses reminiscent of Alberta Innovates and Prairies Financial Improvement Canada.

About 60 college students have been positioned up to now, most from the biomedical stream but additionally some from mechanical, civil, electrical and supplies engineering.

“I might meet with sufferers and occupational and bodily therapists to determine challenges the affected person confronted every day,” says biomedical engineering scholar Andrew Archibald, who accomplished a placement final 12 months.

“We’d then modify an current product or develop a very new machine to satisfy the wants of the affected person. It actually helped develop my creativity and compelled me to suppose exterior the field.”

The expertise shifted Archibald’s focus to a extra patient-centred profession, he says. He’s now finding out medication on the U of A and is “excited to serve the neighborhood in a extra private approach.”

Faulkner says the GRRIT initiative has little interest in the mental property for any know-how it develops. “We simply wish to assist develop a cluster of well being industries that may assist sufferers, whereas introducing college students to concepts of entrepreneurship at an early stage.”

He factors to an train machine for the fingers, arms and wrists as one other profitable product developed via this system. The thought got here from therapists on the Glenrose and was handed on to Edmonton’s Karma Machining and Manufacturing Providers — an oil and gasoline machine firm seeking to diversify. The machine was designed by a bunch of fourth-year U of A mechanical engineering college students, who refined it with assist from college students on the Northern Alberta Institute of Know-how, says Faulkner.

One other innovation hatched by physiotherapists is a pc recreation that helps individuals with reminiscence loss navigate a visit to the grocery retailer. The sport’s avatar provides the participant a price range for a night meal and has them buy the mandatory substances with out overspending.

“Our therapists thought this is able to assist individuals beginning to have issue with actions of every day dwelling,” says Faulkner.

It’s win-win for everybody concerned, he says. “Given the character of the tasks we work on, we are inclined to get the easiest college students.”

And the scholars love the hands-on expertise. “They actually get pleasure from working straight with occupational and physiotherapists,” Faulkner notes. “In lots of instances it modifications their lives.”

“I do adore it,” says Place, three years after first working with Bowhead.

“With a small firm, it’s simply unbelievable. I don’t know the way I may have discovered a extra excellent job.”