Julia Beattie and Bennett Verderame are undergraduates in Mechanical Engineering. They interned with FieldLine Inc. during summer 2021.
Julia, can you tell us a little bit about the company where you interned?
Julia Beattie: FieldLine Inc. is a small engineering company located in Boulder, Colorado. Its primary product is a sensor that can detect miniscule changes in a magnetic field. There are many applications to this technology, but FieldLine’s specialty is the HEDscan or MEG helmet, which is a wearable helmet containing dozens of sensors that can be used to measure magnetic brain signals. Hospitals and medical researchers can use this in studying and treating brain conditions.
Bennett, what was your role as interns with FieldLine Inc?
Bennett Verderame: Our main project was to design and prototype a chair the company could use for their brain scanning system. We researched chairs used in medical settings by going in-person to hospitals and other centers, buying chairs off online advertising sites to examine them hands-on, and conducting tests with the company’s other employees to determine the most comfortable sitting position.
When we got to the design phase, we started with a generic chair design that utilized the angles we determined were comfortable and stress tested different variations in Fusion 360. Then, we had brainstorming sessions where we sat down with our sketchbooks and pitched different aesthetic ideas to each other until we decided on one we liked. From there we prototyped our design using a single sheet of plywood and fasteners. We went through multiple iterations and were able to work our way to a proof of concept.
The final steps for the project were to figure out how to get the chair manufactured and how to attach the helmet onto the chair. We helped a little with this, but it was mainly the job of our supervisors to take over for this final stage.
Julia, what was the most challenging part of your main project?
Julia Beattie: One of the most challenging parts of our project was figuring out a way for the chair to adjust to accommodate different heights. This was brought up only a few days into the internship, and design adjustments continued all the way until the final week. We cycled through multiple iterations before deciding on a satisfactory final design.
Bennett, what technical skills did you gain during the internship?
Bennett Verderame: We gained a lot of experience modeling in Fusion 360, with our supervisor helping us to create drawings that better communicate with manufacturers. Another skill we gained is woodworking. I went from having never built something life-size with wood to building a sturdy chair. Through working on the height adjustment mechanism for our chair, we learned about component design and how different parts fit into moving mechanisms. We also gained 3D printing skills, as we used the MakerBot software to set up and print parts. Lastly, we began to learn the skill of design for manufacturability. We went through multiple iterations of the chair design due to having to take out certain features that were not manufacturable and add in ones that were.
What was the most rewarding part of your internship and what advice would you have for a student starting their first internship?
Julia Beattie: It is very rewarding to know that I helped develop a product that could potentially be used in hospitals and research centers around the world. I would encourage incoming interns to ask as many questions as possible. Take advantage of the many smart people you are working with and the learning opportunities given to you.
Bennett Verderame: The most rewarding part of the internship was that we had a definite impact. Even if the company does not end up using our exact chair design down to each nut and bolt, the research Julia and I did will influence what they decide to use for their MEG system. Something I would advise for future students in the program is to take advantage of the opportunity to gain insight from everyone more experienced than you. Whenever there was something I wasn’t sure how to do, or even some advanced scientific topic relating to our product I was just curious about, I was always able to find great information just by asking.