The University of Texas at El Paso Partners with Watershed for Ground-Breaking Class

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Through a public-private partnership, students received real-world experience and had the opportunity to create a unique collegiate portfolio in medical device development.

Where Ideas Become Turning Points
This class represents another exciting advance in UTEP’s development as a national research university.

The University of Texas at El Paso and Watershed, an idea foundry created by Fountainhead Investment Partners, are announcing the completion of a public-private pilot class in the mechanical engineering department during the fall semester. In the ground-breaking class, 24 senior-level mechanical engineering students had the opportunity to learn from Watershed engineers and medical doctors. The students created final projects focused on orthopedic designs that included general biomedical principles with broad applicability, and presented their work in the final class on December 8.

“This class represents another exciting advance in UTEP’s development as a national research university,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “We are grateful to UTEP alumnus Brian Kieser for initiating this important new relationship with Watershed. In addition to offering our students a unique opportunity to work together with Watershed professionals, and enabling them to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in their academic programs to address real-world challenges, it has reinforced for them the enormous value of the competencies they have acquired in pursuit of their UTEP degrees.”

Chair of UTEP’s mechanical engineering department, Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., added, “This course fit perfectly within our curriculum and desire to provide hands-on experiences and prepare our students to be productive immediately in the workplace. By providing access to high-tech practicing engineers, our student obtained unique professional skills and experiences that employers desire. This course has undoubtedly reduced the workplace learning curve for these students and opened up new opportunities in the exciting healthcare medical device design field.”

The Orthopedic Medical Device Design course incorporated medical device design with proficiencies of working within healthcare requirements and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. Additionally, students had the opportunity to utilize traditional manufacturing methods, with a basic introduction to quality control as well as more advanced manufacturing methods such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

“When we opened an exploratory office earlier this year in El Paso, this was exactly the kind of public-private partnership we were hoping to create. Through Watershed and this partnership, we feel we have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and shape the way they learn in the future,” said Brian Kieser, Managing Partner of Fountainhead Investment Partners. “UTEP is my alma mater and because of that I’ve had a first-hand opportunity to see the innovation within the University’s technology programs such as the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation. Therefore I had high hopes for this project but the students exceeded my expectations. I am so proud of what they were able to accomplish.“

Over the 15-week class, students designed and developed their own spinal implant, conducted three design review presentations, completed a design history file, and tested prototypes of their designs. Additionally, Watershed brought in guest lecturers to share real-world medical device knowledge. One guest was Dr. Frank K. Kuwamura, III, M.D., a leading spine surgeon with Innovative Spine in San Antonio, who shared his experience designing medical devices and introduced mechanical engineering concepts as applied to human anatomy. As a result of the class, students will possess a true differentiator in job interviews with the ability to demonstrate their knowledge learned from the curriculum by showcasing their final project designs.

“It was very rewarding to see the students thirst for this class and the emerging technologies in the design of medical devices,” said Kuwamura. “I was blown away by the designs of the students during their presentations. To see how far they came in 15 weeks – from a blank canvas to a product - was amazing.”

Through the pilot semester, the goal was to test student interest levels by starting within the mechanical engineering department. Fountainhead Investment Partners and Watershed intend to continue to support UTEP, through this program and other course offerings that can benefit from this unique instructional paradigm.

“I am so pleased that we were able to offer this course over the fall semester, it provided new and exciting job opportunities to our students in the area of high-tech medical device design. I especially look forward to continuing our relationship with Mr. Kieser and his team to expand in a variety of ways to the benefit of El Paso and our students.” said Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., P.E., professor of mechanical engineering and director of the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

About Watershed
Watershed is an idea foundry created by Fountainhead Investment Partners that is focused on biomedical growth and innovation. Watershed's purpose is to forge promising ideas into viable intellectual property and products ready for the marketplace, ultimately creating profitable businesses, bringing together industry experts from around the world to guide entrepreneurial ideas.

Watershed works with entrepreneurs exploring their ideas as well as companies that require research and development assistance to move their intellectual property forward. Watershed offers services ranging from proof of concept and product development, to manufacturing demonstration and regulatory consulting, to funding readiness.

Through Fountainhead Investment Partners, the foundry provides an environment where talent and innovation are funded, nurtured, and guided to create a turning point for ideas.

About Fountainhead Investment Partners
Fountainhead Investment Partners is a venture capital firm, based in San Antonio, Texas, that invests in early-stage companies. Fountainhead was originally founded as an angel fund in 2014 by a group of successful healthcare entrepreneurs with a vision to connect advancing technologies in order to solve some of medicines’ most complex issues.

In 2015, Fountainhead transitioned to a venture capital firm, with initial funds focused on companies that are accessing innovative technologies from all industries and applying them to the science of medicine with the intention of disrupting the industry while also advancing patient care. Fountainhead makes portfolio investments ranging from $250,000 to $1.5 million. Partners work side-by-side with portfolio companies on operations strategies and management guidance in order to maximize the highest potential growth.

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