How do students learn about biosignals in Healthcare Technologies using BITalino toolkits?

🧐 Let us learn from Professor Sarah’s experience

Professor (Prof.) Sarah Ostadabbas is an Assistant Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department of Northeastern University (NEU), Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and the director of the Augmented Cognition Laboratory. She was one of the first teachers to trust PLUX solutions and use our BITalino teaching devices while teaching “Healthcare Technologies: Sensors, Systems, and Analysis” course.

“BITalino allows us to have the lab sessions in the same classroom where we give lectures. All electronic parts are already available, allowing students to focus on data acquisition and bio-signal pre- and post-processing. All signals are collected on the same platform - the OpenSignals - which is easy to use. The students do not need to wire much or solder anything, which gives them more time to develop their projects further throughout the semester.” Prof. Sarah Ostadabbas, NEU

From the beginning, Prof. Sarah was looking for a solution with on-board and wearable sensors for her students so they could get more hands-on experience in their courses without compromising on quality, and without breaking the budget she had for teaching her “Healthcare Technologies” course.

Indeed, she was looking for affordable options where her students could work with raw data (workable in .txt and .h5 formats) and use a few different sensors simultaneously, including Electrocardiography (ECG), Electromyography (EMG), Accelerometry (ACC), Electrodermal activity (EDA), among others. She found, not only in BITalino (r)evolution Board Kit but also in OpenSignals (r)evolution software some of the key ingredients she needed to complement her hands-on teaching.

 

What’s the Healthcare Technologies: Sensors, Systems, and Analysis in a Biomedical Engineering learning context?

In Healthcare Technologies, the goal is to learn techniques for quantifying, processing, and interpreting biological data (i.e. physiological and behavioral data) collected using digital systems such as wearables (on-body), and implantable/digestible (invasive).

Prof. Sarah's students have good programming skills (e.g., Python and MATLAB), and the biggest challenge for them is to learn proper data acquisition methodology and to apply signal processing and machine learning techniques, i.e., mathematical and computational models, to process the signals they acquire and build their projects within the scope of the course.

BITalino plays an important role in helping these students learn different body responses under specific conditions and through electrophysiology. They can learn about biosignals in real-time, from instrumentation (e.g., how does the hardware work?) to signal acquisition (e.g., how should the sensor be constructed? what should the electrode positioning be? what does a good or bad signal look like?) to processing their biosignals.

BITalino makes the biosignals learning experience more creative, interactive, and personalized.

As the default, the students are using OpenSignals (r)evolution software, to acquire and visualize the different biosignals collected during their lab sessions, either on- or off-campus, due to the portability of BITalino. The students can easily work at the lab or from home which constitutes a good advantage when we think about future education hybrid models (you can learn more in our blog post How can BITalino fit into a hybrid education model?).

However, for Prof. Sarah, one of the biggest advantages of this toolkit is the way it allows the combination of third-party sensors and solutions, once she is using a wide range of different sensors and solutions.

What were the main challenges, when using BITalino in Healthcare Technologies classes?

As mentioned earlier, Prof Sarah was one of the first teachers to purchase the first version of BITalino for classroom use, back in 2016. Initially, her students had some challenges using BITalino in the classroom. In particular, it was difficult to distinguish between the different Bluetooth-connected devices in the same room, and there was also a lack of teaching material for the students to get started.

To meet our mission and strengthen our commitment to our customers, in 2016 we invested in the development of a new version - BITalino (r)evolution - that addresses some of the needs of teachers like Prof. Sarah.

Earlier this year (2022), Prof. Sarah upgraded her lab and purchased 26 BITalino (r)evolution Board Kits that allow her 30 students to easily connect the biosignal system to their laptops or Android devices and work with different sensors simultaneously. Each BITalino comes with an ID (= MAC address) visible in the PC Bluetooth device manager and editable in OpenSignals device manager (How to set up my BITalino in OpenSignals device manager?) so that each student can immediately identify their device.

​BITalino allows you to work with multiple channels at the same time and with the same device (left), and you can also run multiple systems in the same room (right). Each device can be easily identified and personalized.

For disciplines and courses with a more technical nature, such as Healthcare Technologies (within a Biomedical or Electronic Engineering context), BITalino (r)evolution Board Kit or BITalino (r)evolution Plugged Kit is the most suitable solutions as they are coming with on and off-board sensors (e.g. ECG, EMG, EDA, EEG, ACC, LUX, BTN), respectively.

Learn more about BITalino: BITalino Board Kit & Plugged Kit: What’s the difference?

 

And what about the tutorials to get started with BITalino?

Well, during the pandemic we have developed some Home (Lab) Guides to be used as getting-started guides with our Application Field Kits, especially HomeBIT. These tutorials can be easily adapted to different formats and teaching contexts as it intended to be a source of inspiration for teachers and students to get started working with biosignals.

In Healthcare Technologies, students work in groups of 2 or 3, and when the main objective of these classes is based on learning the origin of biosignals, their acquisition and processing, it becomes extremely important to have examples of the use of BITalino & sensors (hardware). For similar teaching cases and the first classes, our Home (Lab) Guides can be a true companion.

“When I started developing my course - Healthcare Technologies: Sensors, Systems, and Analysis - I was envisioning having in-class labs, because I believe that learning should be a hands-on experience (…). I was quite happy with my decision, because of the support and service that I received from PLUX and also also the high quality of data I got within the different sensors the BITalino Board has. Another good thing is, I can use BITalino in any classroom, in different buildings; I just need to give the device to the students and that’s it - they install the app and collect the signal by themselves”

To complement the getting started guides and go deeper into Signal Processing, the students can follow Python Notebooks. Take a look at the following Topics related to ECG Signals:

And that’s all folks. I hope you have learned more from Prof. Sarah’s experience in teaching biosignals with BITalino, within Healthcare Technologies, i.e. Sensors, Systems, and Analysis context.

Keep tuned to our Blog Post. We have more to tell you!

BITalino 👉 a way of moving forward in biosignal teaching.