YSU students win top award at Graduate Research Symposium

Youngstown State University undergraduate students Jared Vanasdale and John Berndt received the Best Seminar Presentation Award at the 10th annual Midwest Graduate Research Symposium at the University of Toledo.

Berndt and Vanasdale, both majoring in Mechanical Engineering, placed first among more than 120 presentations from students, mostly master’s and PhD graduate students, at universities across the Midwest.

“We were among very few undergraduates even accepted to present at this symposium and were competing against graduate-level theses and doctorate dissertations,” Vanasdale said. “This speaks volumes of the Mechanical Engineering department's senior capstone course.”

The students won the award for the presentation of their senior capstone project, titled "The Correlation Between Epidermal Strain and Sternal Stress Post Sternotomy." Faculty advisors include Weiqing Ge, associate professor of Physical Therapy, and Jason Walker, assistant professor of Manufacturing Engineering.

A summary of the research: After median sternotomy is performed, the divided sternal halves are constrained together using one of several wiring techniques. The rehabilitative standards used following open-heart surgery possess little empirical evidence of their validity. The goal of this work is to confirm the hypothesis that a correlation exists between the epidermal strain of the sternal region and the distraction distance of sternal halves. The methods used to create this correlation consisted of in-vivo epidermal image tracking of the sternal region and finite element analysis of digital sternal models. Four points of skin along the sternal midline were analyzed during unilateral arm raising and correlated to the movement of those same regions on a high-quality finite element model under similar loading and constraint scenarios. Preliminary analysis results strongly favor the existence of this hypothesized correlation. Identifying a correlation between these two entities will enlighten physicians on patient movement limitations post median sternotomy.