Award-Winning Engineer Helps Patients, Students, and Entrepreneurs in Innovative Biomedical Program
An iPad game helps people with memory difficulties shop for groceries. A battery–powered tricycle lets paraplegics use mountain bike trails. Amputees go swimming, aided by a specially designed fin.
Within interdisciplinary teams, engineering students in Edmonton are working on these and other projects to improve the lives of patients.
Medicine, research, private industry, and engineering meet at an Edmonton hospital focused on rehabilitation, and a luminary of academia and self-regulation is one of the people leading the way. Gary Faulkner, P.Eng., PhD, is the director of rehabilitation and technology development for Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and its research, innovation, and technology hub.
Glenrose is the largest free-standing, comprehensive, tertiary rehabilitation hospital in Canada. It serves patients of all ages who require complex rehabilitation to enable them to live their lives to the fullest.
A University of Alberta professor emeritus, Dr. Faulkner says that one of the best ways to learn is to take a practical approach to problem solving. It’s what engineers do, says the professional engineer.
Faulkner has applied that approach to four decades of teaching in the mechanical engineering department of the University of Alberta Faculty of Engineering. A five-time recipient of a U of A undergraduate teaching award, he’s also a recipient of the U of A Faculty of Engineering Career Leadership Award.
Faulkner’s leadership with Glenrose helps patients gain greater independence. But his newest program does even more. It partners with Alberta companies to develop innovative solutions to health challenges, while providing co-op engineering students with work opportunities in biomedicine.
Students tackle real-world health care problems through company job placements, giving them a chance to develop their skills, explains Faulkner.
The program began in 2019, in collaboration with U of A Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes, P.Eng. At the time of this writing, the program had placed 20 undergraduate students into four-month paid positions. Funding has been extended for two more years.
“Students need good experience to become professional engineers, and these companies can use the assistance, so with proper mentoring we are doing both,” says Faulkner. “This is an example where engineers are fundamental to the solution—they are the ones who can come up with innovations and turn those innovations into reality.”
Gary Faulkner, P.Eng. with C.A.R.E.N., the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment system.
Glenrose Rehabilitation Research Innovation and Technology Launch
More About Faulkner
Faulkner is a recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal. He’s also received three APEGA Summit Awards over the years, including the organization’s highest honour, the Centennial Leadership Award.
His volunteer record with APEGA is beyond impressive. Faulkner served on the Board of Examiners—which assesses applicant qualifications— for 27 years. For 21 of those years, he served as chair.
Gary Faulkner, P.Eng. presenting on the GRRIT program (Glenrose Rehabilitation Research Innovation & Technology).