In the virtual internship Nephrotex, students play the role of interns in a fictitious biomedical engineering design firm. The primary task assigned to interns at Nephrotex is to develop a novel nanotechnology-based membrane for use in kidney dialysis systems.
Students review internal technical documents, conduct background research, and examine research reports based on actual experimental data. After these tasks are complete, students develop hypotheses based on their research, test those hypotheses in the provided design space, and then analyze the results, first individually and then in teams.
All activities take place online, so students can log in using any computer or tablet with Internet access. Students communicate with their team members and design advisor using built-in chat and email, and they record their activities and reflect on them in an engineering notebook.
Students also become knowledgeable about consultants within the company who have a stake in the outcome of their designed prototypes. These consultants value different performance metrics. For example, the clinical engineer is most interested in biocompatibility and flux, and the manufacturing engineer values reliability and cost. During the last days of the internship, interns present and justify their final design selections.
Nephrotex is optimized for use with advanced high school students and lower-division college students. It takes approximately 15 hours to complete.
(Note: If you use any products, services, or data developed or provided by EGG/GAPS—including virtual internships and epistemic network analysis—in your research or in any publications or presentations, please read our guidelines for acknowledgment.)
Arastoopour, G., Chesler, N. C., & Shaffer, D. W. (2014). Epistemic persistence: A simulation-based approach to increasing participation of women in engineering. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 20(3): 211-234.
Chesler, N., Arastoopour, G., D’Angelo, C.M., Bagley, E., & Shaffer, D.W. (2013). Design of a professional practice simulator for educating and motivating first-year engineering students. Advances in Engineering Education 3(3): 1-29.
Arastoopour, G., Chesler, N., D’Angelo, C.M., Opgenorth, J., Reardan, C., Haggerty, N., Lepak, C., & Shaffer, D.W. (2013). Epistemic persistence: A simulation-based approach for increasing women in engineering. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Francisco, CA.
Arastoopour, G., Chesler, N., D’Angelo, C., Shaffer, D.W., Opgenorth, J., Reardan, C., Haggerty, N., & Lepak, C. (2012). Nephrotex: Measuring first-year students’ ways of professional thinking in a virtual internship. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education. San Antonio, TX.
Shaffer, D.W., Chesler, N., Arastoopour, G., & D’Angelo, C.M. (2011). Nephrotex: Teaching first-year students how to think like engineers. Poster presented at the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement PI Conference. Washington, D.C.
D’Angelo, C.M., Arastoopour, G., Chesler, N., & Shaffer, D.W. (2011). Collaborating in a virtual engineering internship. Paper presented at the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Conference. Hong Kong, China.
Chesler, N., D’Angelo, C.M., Arastoopour, G., & Shaffer, D.W. (2011). Use of professional practice simulation in a first-year introduction to engineering course. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education. Vancouver, BC.
D’Angelo, C.M., Shaffer, D.W., & Chesler, N. (2011). Undergraduate engineers engaging and reflecting in a professional practice simulation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education. Vancouver, BC.
Chesler, N., Bagley, E., Breckenfeld, E., West, D., & Shaffer, D.W. (2010). A virtual hemodialyzer design project for first-year engineers: An epistemic game approach. Paper presented at the American Society of Medical Engineers Bioengineering Conference. Naples, FL.
Chesler, N., Bagley, E., & Shaffer, D.W. (2010). Professional practice simulations for engaging, educating, and assessing undergraduate engineers. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences. Chicago, IL.