12 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
The biomanufacturing potential of 3D printing is ready to take
the next step toward healing ailing hearts. Researchers at the
University of Minnesota have printed a functioning human
heart pump in the lab from stem cells, built on a centimeter-
size scale.
Similar processes previously involved taking pluripotent hu-
man stem cells and reprogramming them into cariomyocytes,
or heart muscle cells, then creating a three-dimensional struc-
ture. However, earlier attempts didnt create enough cell density
for the heart to function.
The Minnesota researchers reversed the process, using the
stem cells to 3D-print the organ, then densified and turned
them into heart muscles.
At first, we tried 3D printing cardiomyocytes, and we failed,
too,” said Brenda Ogle, the lead researcher on the study, head of
the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the University of
Minnesota College of Science and Engineering and director of
the University of Minnesotas Stem Cell Institute.
After years of research, we were ready to give up and then
two of my biomedical engineering Ph.D. students, Molly Kupfer
and Wei-Han Lin, suggested we try printing the stem cells first.
We decided to give it one last try. I couldnt believe it when we
looked at the dish in the lab and saw the whole thing contracting
spontaneously and synchronously and able to move fluid.
Ogle said the study shows how printed 3D heart muscle cells
could be organized to work together, which is more similar to
how stem cells grow in the
body before becoming spe-
The heart muscle model
the team created is about
1.5 centimeters long and
was designed to fit into the
abdomen of a mouse for
further study. The struc-
ture is shaped like a closed
sac with an inlet and out-
let for fluids, allowing re-
searchers to study how a
heart moves blood.
“We now have a model
to track and trace what is
happening at the cell and
molecular level in pump
structure that begins to
approximate the human heart,” Ogle said. “We can introduce
disease and damage into the model and then study the effects of
medicines and other therapeutics.
All of this seems like a simple concept, but how you achieve
this is quite complex. We see the potential and think that our
new discovery could have a transformative effect on heart re-
News from the field
The front line
A 3D-printed organ taken to heart
Minnesota researchers build heart structure from stem cells
Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota
This image used on the cover of
the American Heart Association’s
Circulation Research journal is
a 3D rendering of the printed
heart pump developed at the
University of Minnesota that
could have major implications
for studying heart disease.
© 2020 Scott Adams, Inc. Used by permission of Andrews McMeel Syndication. All rights reserved.
September 2020 | ISE Magazine 13
High tech at a slow pace through the tree canopy
Georgia Tech’s ‘SlothBot’ device measures data at botanical garden
The fly on the wall is actually a robot in the trees at the Atlanta
Botanical Garden. And while the device christened SlothBot
looks and moves as slowly as its canopy-dwelling namesake, it’s
anything but lazy.
The slow-moving, energy-efficient robot monitor was built
by engineers at Georgia Tech. It is powered by solar panels and
power management technology allowing it to monitor tem-
perature, weather, carbon dioxide levels and other information
and their effect on the animals and plants in the 30-acre mid-
town Atlanta greenspace.
SlothBot embraces slowness as a design principle,” Magnus
Egerstedt, professor and Steve W. Chaddick School Chair in
the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engi-
neering, said in a story on Georgia Techs News Center web-
page. “Thats not how robots are typically designed today, but
being slow and hyper-energy efficient will allow SlothBot to
linger in the environment to observe things we can only see by
being present continuously for months, or even years.
The device is about 3 feet long and operates on a 100-foot
cable, seeking sunlight when its batteries need recharging. To
protect its inner workings, the 3D-printed outer shell was de-
signed to resemble a smiling three-toed sloth, a look inspired
by Egerstedts visit to Costa Rica where he observed sloths
deliberate foraging techniques in the tree canopy.
The project is supported by the National Science Founda-
tion and the Office of Naval Research and designed to help
scientists gather information and understand ways to protect
endangered ecosystems.
The most exciting goal well demonstrate with SlothBot is
the union of robotics and technology with conservation,” said
Emily Coffey, vice president for conservation and research at
the Garden. “We do conservation research on imperiled plants
and ecosystems around the world, and SlothBot will help us
nd new and exciting ways to advance our research and con-
servation goals.
SlothBot could also be used in agriculture for detection of
crop diseases, humidity and insect infestation. Researchers
hope to deploy the device in South America to observe orchid
pollination or the lives of endangered frogs.
The research team includes Ph.D. students Gennaro Noto-
mista and Yousef Emam, undergraduate student Amy Yao and
postdoctoral researcher Sean Wilson.
Photos courtesy of Rob Felt | Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech researchers prepare to install the SlothBot at
the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Pictured are graduate research
assistants Yousef Emam and Gennaro Notomista, professor and
school Chair Magnus Egerstedt and Research Engineer Sean
Working from home not an option for most
Working from home during the pandemic is not an option for about three-quarters of the U.S. workforce, some 108
million people overall. These workers are at increased risk of exposure to disease as well as facing a higher risk for other
job disruptions such as layoffs, furloughs or hours reductions, according to a University of Washington study. They
also represent some of the lowest paid workers in the U.S., according to the study’s author, Marissa Baker, an assistant
professor in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences. The 25% of U.S. workers (35.6
million) who can work at home and dont require public interaction are typically in highly-paid occupational sectors
such as finance, administration, computer, engineering and technology that earn a median income of nearly $63,000.
Each of four job sectors in the study was identified on whether they rely on computer use and interaction with the
public. “The workers for whom computer use is not important at work but interactions with the public is are some of the
lowest paid workers,” Baker said. “And during this pandemic, they face compounding risks of exposure to COVID-19,
job loss and adverse mental health outcomes associated with job loss.
Prime Number
The SlothBot solar-
powered robotic
monitor slowly crawls
a wire at the Atlanta
Botanical Garden
measuring weather
and atmospheric
14 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Students from middle schools, high
schools, colleges and universities across
the U.S. put their STEM skills and their
aerospace engineering theories to the
test recently in the annual NASA Stu-
dent Launch competition.
Students from 54 teams across the
continental U.S. and Puerto Rico de-
signed and deployed model spacecraft in
a test flight scenario. The competition is
conducted by NASAs Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as
part of its seven Artemis Student Chal-
lenges based on the space agency’s Arte-
mis moon mission program.
The competition involves building
and flying an amateur rocket carrying a
complex payload more than 4,000 feet
into the sky and landing it safely. The
college and university teams then were
assigned to navigate their payloads to a
designated sample site, retrieve a sample
of planetary ice and navigate at least 10
feet with it stored safely aboard.
Teams earned points for progress dur-
ing the eight-month competition, with
the leading points winner earning the
top prize. The first-place award went to
Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab from
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Ten-
nessee, for the seventh time in the last
eight years, earning it a $5,000 award
from Northrop Grumman. The Uni-
versity of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Cam-
pus, won the Rookie Award as the top
new team in the event.
Other awards were given to teams in
11 categories for various accomplish-
ments including rocket and payload de-
sign and safety, social media presence,
STEM engagement, best-looking rock-
et and team spirit. This year’s awards
event was held virtually due to the CO-
VID-19 pandemic.
This year’s teams showed true in-
novation and determination as they
tackled the new payload challenge and
the unconventional methods we had
to employ to complete the competi-
tion,” said Fred Kepner, an education
program specialist and lead for Student
Launch. “Despite the unique obstacles
they faced this year, their commitment
to technical excellence and carrying on
in the spirit of the competition never
the frontlinethe front line
Photo courtesy of NASA
Team members from the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez placed first in the
college/university division of the 2019 Human Rover Challenge part of NASAs Student
Launch competition. Teams were awarded points based on the successful navigation
of obstacles and completion of tasks.
Fueling the rocket scientists of tomorrow
NASAs Student Launch program awards top teams in spaceflight competition
Students from the Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab from Vanderbilt University in
Nashville, Tennessee, claimed top honors in the 2020 Student Launch competition for
the seventh time in the last eight years.
Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Lab
The Notre Dame
Academy team
from Los Angeles
won the Judge’s
Choice Award
as the middle or
high school team
with the most
creative payload,
best design and
Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Academy
September 2020 | ISE Magazine 15
Managing an enterprise during normal times is challenging enough, but the COVID-19 pandemic has
put all businesses, universities and nonprofits on the same shaky footing in 2020. Finding your way
through various obstacles requires the right blend of strategy and flexibility. In their 2017 book, Project
Management in Extreme Situations, editors Monique Aubry and Pascal Lièvre rely on examples from
such extreme scenarios as polar expeditions, wilderness explorations, mountain climbing, military
and rescue operations. Each author summarizes the conditions and problems encountered and how
leaders need flexibility to take on unforeseen difficulties along the way. As examples, a boat accident
in the Arctic is a lesson on how an effective project manager must follow plans yet abandon them when disaster strikes and
improvise new ones; polar expeditions illustrate how a team can use “weak links” to go beyond its usual information network
to acquire strategic information; fire and rescue operations show how one team member’s knowledge can be transferred to
the entire team; and military operations provide case material on how teams coordinate and make use of both individual
and collective competencies. Though guarding against bear attacks and preparing tool drops on Mount Everest might not be
disruptions your business will face, the thinking behind the solutions can apply in many ventures. Complex projects nearly
always encounter a high level of change that requires leaders to embrace by staying flexible, more vital than ever in a time
when extreme uncertainty has become the norm.
Project Management in Extreme Situations is published by CRC Press, $46-$77.
Extreme times call for extreme strategies
Book offers leadership lessons from wilderness adventures
Book of the Month
Internet of things technology involves
devices talking to other devices, which
in our daily lives includes our smart-
phones carrying on discussions with our
smartwatches, our fitness bracelets and
our climate control centers.
Now clothing is looking to enter the
A research team at the Hybrid Body
Lab at Cornell University (www.hybrid-
body.human.cornell.edu) has developed a
process to weave wearable devices that
can interface with other technology. The
group, led by assistant professor and lab
director Cindy (Hsin-Liu) Kao, com-
bines traditional craft techniques with
modern technology to create on-skin
interfaces. They submitted their project
at the Association of Computing Ma-
chinery Designing Interactive Systems
Conference, held virtually July 8-10, in
a paper, “Weaving a Second Skin: Ex-
ploring Opportunities for Crafting On-
Skin Interfaces Through Weaving,” that
earned honorable mention honors for
best paper and best demo award.
Rather than create wearables that
look like the outer skin of a sci-fi robot,
Kao invited textile artists into the lab to
weave the interface fabrics. She was in-
spired by a visit to a weaving workshop
in Japan in operation for 1,000 years.
“I was stunned by the skill and the
craft involved,” she said. “I started think-
ing about the craft of different cultures
and how we could bring that craft and
expressiveness to these on-skin inter-
They chose the interface functions
and patterns to combine aesthetics with
functionality. One weaver created a sen-
sor over the heart that would send a text
message to a chosen loved one when
touched, consisting of wires connected
to a circuit and linked to a Bluetooth
phone device.
The hands-on approach of craftspeo-
ple can serve as a lesson to STEM experts
working in textiles, Kao said.
“We quickly saw the importance of
working by hand,” Kao said. “In com-
puter science and engineering theres this
fascination with automating everything,
but it was an important part of the pro-
cess for these weavers to feel the texture
and improvise with how it would work.
Thats hard to distill from an engineer-
ing perspective, but is really valuable for
guring out how to integrate these tech-
nologies with textiles.
Funded by a grant from the Center for
Craft, the laboratory team continued to
work from home on looms and hand-
knitting machines during the pandemic
A textile artist’s woven on-skin interface,
a sensor for “touching one’s own heart”
woven with overshot patterns, was
created with the fabrication process
developed by the Hybrid Body Lab at
Cornell University.
Wearable tech that wont go out of style
Woven on-skin interfaces could allow clothing to communicate with smart technology
Photo courtesy of Hybrid Body Lab
16 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Quote, unquote
Health engineer: COVID models aid decision-making
“Models are just a simplified version of reality and a tool to help manage possible future
outcomes. It’s not going to tell you exactly what you should do or exactly what should
happen. That rarely occurs. It’s just a tool to help you prepare for what could happen,
what could not happen. One of the main problems happening now, especially with CO-
VID, is that people are saying the models are way off or they’re incorrect. The fact is this
is a new virus; were still learning about it. We’re including as much as we can in our model
that is dealing with COVID to get as close to reality as possible. But there’s still a lot of stuff
that we dont know and that just makes it very difficult to model. We just need to help
people, especially decision-makers, understand that and give them a range of outcomes that
can occur based on the model, and that should help them make more informed decisions.
Michael L. Washington, an industrial engineer and health scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, on COVID-19 modeling efforts
to predict the disease’s spread and impact. He and his team created two spreadsheet models, one to help healthcare facilities plan for a surge in
COVID-19 cases during the pandemic and another that illustrates the resources needed to conduct contact tracing and monitoring of COVID-19
cases and its potential impact. Both can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. His full interview can be heard on Problem Solved: The IISE Podcast
at podcast.iise.org.
the frontlinethe front line
Who you know still matters in busi-
ness, and nowhere is that adage felt more
these days than in supply chains. In fact,
researchers from four universities have
concluded that previous relationships in
business or education between suppliers
and vendors leads to greater efficiency
and effectiveness for supply chains.
The research team — Xiumin Martin
from the Olin Business School at Wash-
ington University in St. Louis, Missouri,
Ting Chen of the University of Massa-
chusetts Boston, Hagit Levy of the City
University of New York and Ron Shalev
of the University of Toronto — studied
2000-11 data from public companies.
They used 12 years of data that included
universities, employment histories, char-
itable connections and board member-
ships to find links between suppliers and
customers and found such long-term ties
between 1,430 suppliers and 2,630 cus-
They determined 7.4% of the sample
had educational connections and 21%
had either educational or past-work rela-
tionships. Looking at the organizational
charts, they discovered 0.5% connections
between CEOs and 15.2% between
non-C-level executives.
“Recent years witnessed signicant
increase in the complexity of supply-
chain relationship due to outsourcing,
said Martin, a professor of accounting.
Such increased complexity pushes my
co-authors and me to think about how
some fundamental issues concerning
information asymmetry are addressed
in this new regime. We examined this
question by focusing on personal con-
nections because the world has also be-
come increasingly connected.
The study found that such connections
made a vendor to be 60% more likely to
select a supplier over baseline probability.
The ties between C-level executives was
even stronger than those lower on the
executive ladder.
The data showed that 27%, about 1
in 4, contracts were between connected
parties, and on average, the contracts
lasted six months longer (48 months vs.
42 months) in duration than those with
no connection.
The prior connections also led to im-
proved efficiency, more relaxed contract
terms, expanded geographical options
when nearby choices were limited and
eased information exchanges. The part-
ners were able to make accurate risk as-
sessments, reduce costs, facilitate timely
updates and improve the effectiveness of
monitoring across the supply chain.
The COVID-19 crisis has signi-
cantly disrupted supply chains,” Martin
wrote in the paper. “It will be interest-
ing and important to examine whether
personal connections have an influence
in counteracting such disruptions and
fostering a more resilient and robust sup-
ply chain network.
Long-time personal ties matter in supply chains
Study finds past connections lead to better outcomes for suppliers, vendors
Michael L. Washington