Current trainers for medical students have unrealistic pulses, and don’t offer rich contextual information to aid in diagnosis.
Design a way to train medical students’ ability to feel weak pulses. Currently, students need hours of hands-on training to develop the necessary tactile skills.
Our team designed the BeatBox, a portable pulse trainer and iOS app with adjustable pulse rate, strength, and skin temperature.


I. Research


Our team went with Dr. Linda Honan, a professor at Yale School of Nursing, to her clinical rounds. She was teaching medical students to feel pulses in the feet of patients in the trauma unit. These pulses are often weak, and sometimes can only be accessed through layers of bandages or swelling.

The easiest way to diagnose arterial issues is through palpation of pulses. However, clinicians who are not comfortable with this tactile skill often bring in ultrasound scanners and other diagnostics. These can be costly or not available, so palpation is an extremely important skill for medical students to learn.

Currently the best way for students to learn is through hours of hands-on practice with an experienced teacher like Dr. Honan.

II. Concept Generation

Vein variations
To solve the problem, we considered various motors, linear accelerators, and the like to simulate the pulse. We ultimately settled on a speaker as the pulse actuator for its springy responsiveness and easy programmability. We used flexible plastic tubing to provide the necessary pliability of a vein, and layers of hydrogel and silicone provided skin-like cushioning.
Skin temperature is a secondary symptom of arterial disease, so we integrated peltier devices to convey cold or hot sensation. This provides additional context to a weak or strong pulse, allowing more complex diagnosis.

III. Feedback

We evaluated the BeatBox with the help of Dr. Linda Honan and her colleague, Dr. Deborah Fahs. Their perceptions were used to calibrate realistic bounds in our software (for example, for a strong, weak, or normal pulse). We also tested the device with a transplant surgeon, who found it realistic.
“It is a life-like credible pulsation which thus far is missing in simulators. I can’t wait to test it [with my students]!” -Dr. Linda Honan, Yale School of Nursing


This project was completed in a team of 4 students as part of MENG 404: Medical Device Design and Innovation, taught by Dr. Joe Zinter and Dr. Jean Zheng at Yale University. Our clinician-mentor was Dr. Linda Honan, a professor at the Yale School of Nursing.


We brought the BeatBox to two conferences in April 2016:

Haptics Symposium: Work-in-Progress paper, “Pulsimulate: a Novel Device for More Realistic Pulse Simulation.” I presented in an interactive poster session.

Design of Medical Devices Conference Student Design Showcase: “BeatBox: a Novel Device for More Realistic Pulse Simulation.” Presented in poster session (by my teammates).