Saving Animals' Lives Wins WPI Students First Place in President's IQP Competition

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - By designing a model of a heart, Worcester Polytechnic Institute students may help save animals' lives in two ways: Once in the lab and again in the veterinary office. The project, "Open Chest Cardiac Massage," produced by Deborah Marcroft of Ashland, N.H., a 1998 graduate, and senior Heather Sheldon of Mattapoisett, Mass., won WPI's coveted 1998 President's Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) Competition. The Dec. 2 event involved the top six projects chosen from among 220 IQPs completed in the 1997-98 school year.

The winning project allows veterinary students to practice open chest cardiac massage, a medical emergency procedure in which the heart is pumped manually. In the past, students practiced on a live animal, often with loss of life.

"This process was eliminated at most schools within the past five to 10 years," Sheldon noted. The model allows students to practice on an artificial heart, eliminating laboratory deaths, while providing valuable experience to future vets who may save animals in emergency situations.

Reflecting the depth of their work, Marcroft mentioned one of many tasks necessary to the project. "Because Heather and I are not doctors," she said, "we also had to learn how to do open chest cardiac massage."

Robert Peura, WPI professor and department head of biomedical engineering, served as the advisor for the project produced with Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. A realistic silicone heart was placed inside a chest cavity, complete with lungs and other anatomical details. The students also produced a written operating manual.

Veterinarians and veterinary students were asked to evaluate the model, and their response showed it to be an effective teaching tool.

The daughter of David and Shirley Marcroft of Ashland, N.H., Marcroft has been a member of the Pre-Health Organization; Band Association including Concert Band, Orchestra, Brass Ensemble and Woodwind Quintet; Christian Bible Fellowship; and Outing Club. She is a biomedical engineering major.

Sheldon, the daughter of Mary and Gene Sheldon of Mattapoisett, Mass., is a biotechnology major with a chemistry concentration. A past officer for the Fencing Club and WPI Emergency Medical Services, she has been a member of Mu Sigma Delta, the pre-health society; Masque, the theater program; Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity; SocComm, the WPI Social Committee; and the Major and Special Events Committee.

An Interactive Qualifying Project, "Open Chest Cardiac Massage," took first place at the 1998 President's IQP Competition. From left are WPI President Edward A. Parrish and IQP winners Heather Sheldon and Deborah Marcroft.

The other finalist projects for the 1998 IQP awards were:

Second place: "Analysis of Sewer Holes and Canal Wall Damage in Venice, Italy" with seniors Kristopher Babic of East Barre, Vt., Grant Leeds of Medfield, Mass., and Michael Borek of North Smithfield, R.I., and junior Stylianos "Steve" Sidiroglou of Glyfada, Greece. Fred Looft, professor and associate department head of electrical and computer engineering, and Fabio Carrera, adjunct instructor of interdisciplinary and global studies, served as advisors.

Sharing third place: "Solar Energy" with seniors Jonathan Barlow of Hicksville, N.Y., Jaye Jillson of Worcester, Mass., and Christina Watson of Monroe, Conn., and advisor Chrysanthe Demetry, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and "Reuse of Secondary Building Materials in the Area of Rotterdam" with seniors Samuel Bradshaw of Dennysville, Maine, Jeremy Bragg of Newport, Maine, and Christopher Lautenberger of Oakdale, Conn., and advised by Richard Vaz, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Honorable mentions were:

"Kendrick Brook Sub-Watershed Surface Study" with seniors Jessica Jamro of Pawtucket, R.I., Amanda Piper of Traverse City, Mich., and 1997 graduate Gregory Lafond of Exeter, R.I., and advisor Kent Rissmiller, associate professor of social science and policy studies. "Energy Saving in the Home" with 1998 graduates Jeffrey Faulkner of Springfield, Mass., and Douglas Crawford of Mansfield, Mass., and 1997 graduate Kevin Wojtaszek of North Grafton, Mass., and advisor Douglas Woods, professor of social science and policy studies.

Founded in 1865 in Worcester, Mass., WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education, offering an innovative project-based undergraduate program as well as master's and doctoral studies. To find out more about the IQP competition, contact WPI at (508) 831-6085.