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My name is Madison Bondoc, a proud American Filipina. I have a bachelors in Chemical Engineering, and have recently earned my masters in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Even now, I still can’t believe that I was accepted by and successfully graduated from Cornell. If it wasn’t for my friend and colleague from undergrad., I would not have known of the masters of engineering program for biomedical engineering at Cornell. I also thank my three undergraduate professor’s letters of recommendations, which greatly helped with my application to Cornell.
How does the idea of this come to you? The main idea of the project.
The original idea for my masters project was inspired by Jude Thomas, the loving mother of Haleigh Jane Thomas. For her daughter suffering from Ohtahara Syndrome and severe scoliosis, Jude envisioned a stylish, inflatable vest that would replace Haleigh’s uncomfortable, old-fashioned clam shell brace.
How much time does it take to create and design this vest?
For our first and final prototype, it took my project team and I the whole year - specifically, 10 months - to design and fabricate.
How many people worked on the project?
The core project team included myself, three other female masters students from my program, and of course, Haleigh Jane Thomas, the team ambassador and inspiration for our project. However, there were a lot of other individuals that helped us on our project, including my professors from the biomedical engineering department, faculty from the mechanical engineering and fabric science department at Cornell, and especially, the family and caregivers of Haleigh.
Did the Cornell help you with something, if yes so how?
Yes; Cornell has provided me with the guidance, support, and resources to pursue my dream career. Just within a year of being in the masters of engineering program, I was able to grow and develop the skills, knowledge, and mentality to becoming a biomedical engineer. Also, Cornell has helped me step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself and expand my horizons and view of the world. Cornell has allowed me a space to not only meet a plethora of diverse and inspiring individuals, but to also create a home away from home.
How does this vest work? What is the special in your version of the vest? The inflatable vest can be broken into three main components: (1) air-inflated bladders, (2) 3D printed mesh brace, and (3) vest fabric. Inside the vest, are air bladders connected to electronics that allow the bladders to inflate at the pressures needed to provide spinal support and comfort to Haleigh. The 3D printed mesh brace is designed to hold the bladders with optimal lightweightedness and breathability. Finally, the outside vest fabric were selected and sewn together to hold the bladders and brace together, and provide style to Haleigh’s outfit. What makes our vest special, is that it provides both style and comfort in addition to function.
How did you find the person with whom you will experience this, it was difficult to work with her?
During orientation and project selection process for my masters program at Cornell, I was introduced to Haleigh Jane Thomas, who was the main motivation of the project. I think the challenge with working with Haleigh, was that she was unable to communicate with myself, or the outside world, by conventional means. With the help of Haleigh’s caregivers and family, who are able to read Haleigh’s facial expressions and body language, my team and I were able to better understand Haleigh’s feelings - to some extent.
What are your upcoming plans?
Right now, I am focused on securing a career in the healthcare industry as a biomedical engineer. In the future, I hope that I can work in biomedical engineering design, where I could help design and create biomedical devices, like prosthetics, to improve the quality
and well-being of others. Other future plans, include traveling to countries in Europe and Asia, as well as possibly getting married and having my own family (but that won’t happen for another several years haha).
Did you like to study at Cornell. Why should people apply for this university?
I absolutely loved studying at Cornell. When I first visited Cornell, I fell in love with the campus - the architecture of both old and modern buildings intertwined with the beauty of the nature, i.e. the waterfalls. In addition to being able to study in the beautiful campus, I think people should apply to Cornell because it provides a diverse community and home for students to grow both professionally and personally, and to forge long lasting bonds with friends and professionals that will only benefit their future endeavors once they graduate.
Good education is important in life, because it opens doors to meaningful opportunities in meeting people, traveling to places, creating relationships, and growing personally and achieving self-discovery. In my opinion, higher education helps us better understand the world around us, and allows us to find greater potential in ourselves, and in our lives in general.
Written by Alina Starostina