WMU instructor, students team up to build a better bone model

contact: Paula M. Davis
| WMU News
Photo of a skull.

Walcott, a master faculty specialist who teaches anatomy and commissioned the bone model, indicates where the ethmoid is located in the skull.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Phil Walcott, who teaches anatomy, needed a bone model that was both intricate and free of design flaws.

A group of engineering students needed a project that would demonstrate their innovation, design and project-management skills.

After these two needs converged, a student-developed design process was born and Walcott got his meticulously made model—one so good it has commercial potential.

Walcott is a master faculty specialist in the Department of Physician Assistant and oversees the anatomy suite at the College of Health and Human Services.

For years, he tried to build his own replica of the ethmoid bone, but the results weren’t satisfactory. Medical supply companies sell replicas of the ethmoid, an intricate and highly fragile bone in the human skull, but Walcott says these models lack detail and thereby aren’t accurate.

"I went to the engineering college just on a whim one day," he says.

Walcott was introduced to Dr. Mitchel Keil, a professor of engineering design, manufacturing and management systems, who then pitched the design challenge to students seeking senior capstone project ideas. Four of them seized on the opportunity.

After painstaking research and hands-on effort, they ended up creating a 3D CAD file that's now copyrighted. And the model it produced could be available on the market one day.

Read more about this collaboration and its commercial implications in the fall 2016 WMU Magazine.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.