JSU students showcase ‘Vital Skin’ invention to Board of Trustees

Abigail Read, pictured speaking, addressed the Board of Trustees Tuesday on an invention made for a Biodesign challenge course alongside students Zach Galbreath, Avery Lowe, Will Milner and Kyra Watral. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)Abigail Read, pictured speaking, addressed the Board of Trustees Tuesday on an invention made for a Biodesign challenge course alongside students Zach Galbreath, Avery Lowe, Will Milner and Kyra Watral. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Coley Birchfield, Correspondent

The Jacksonville State University students who participated in the Biodesign Challenge last semester were recognized during Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The Biodesign Challenge course was conducted in the spring semester as a collaboration project between the schools of art, business and engineering. Approximately 20 students from JSU participated to form four biodesign innovations.

“It was unlike any class I had taken before,” Abigail Read, a spring graduate from JSU who was a participant in the course, told the Board of Trustees. “It focused on problem solving, rather than studying and testing.”

Vital Skin — the finalist of the four JSU groups — competed in July’s competition against forty-seven other schools from around the world. Notable schools who participated include Carnegie Mellon University, University of Sydney in Australia and New York University. 

Vital Skin is a personal healthcare device created by students Zach Galbreath, Avery Lowe, Will Milner, Abigail Read and Kyra Watral. The system consists of an implanted device in one’s arm, a protective display sleeve for the implant and a home medical lab. According to the official project information video, the goal is to bring accurate vital monitoring, medical-grade lab analysis and a real-time alert system directly to the patient.

The four groups were led by Art Professor Alison McElroy, Associate Professor of Biology Jimmy Triplett and Applied Engineering Instructor Teje Sult. Will Walker — a former product designer for MIT, Apple and Google — advised the competition process and provided insight to the students. 

Read described the opportunity to work with different majors and degrees as “really good, because they approach things differently as an artist.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to see other situations and learning environments in another course,” said Read.

The goals of the Biodesign Challenge are to create a community among the artists, designer and biologists, seed the first generation of bio-designers and build meaningful public dialogue about biotech and uses.

Staci Stone, JSU’s dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, conducted the presentation on behalf of the schools involved. She said that the current plan is to offer the course every other spring, but the university is hopeful that annual participation is a possibility. 

“We are extremely proud of you,” JSU President Don Killingsworth told the students. “We look forward to future classes.”

For more information on the Vital Skin invention, other JSU Biodesign challenge proposals and competition details, visit https://biodesignchallenge.org/jacksonville-state-university.

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