Today (August 25th, 2016) we Grade 10 students were introduced to our new science/design project of creating a artificial heart valve for both education purposes and possibly real-life medical application. After a brief but comprehensive introduction we brainstormed things we knew about the project, things we needed to know to succeed in this project and how we can find these things (Fig. 1). Then were given a period of time to create a working artificial heart valve that would only allow the flow of blood to be one-way, with materials like balloons, small PVC pipes, tape, rubber bands, etc.

KWL Brainstorm with Heart Drawing

Fig. 1: KWL Brainstorm accompanied by fully labelled diagram of the heart.

Through this task, I learned that patience, perseverance, creativity and problem solving are key attributes to have when designing something from scratch. During the initial brainstorming stage for the valve, I tried to think of a complex design for a heart valve as this was a complex problem. After I could not think of anything I could do with the materials I had, and listened to what my teammates ideas were, I realised that the design did not have to be complex at all, and that it could be something as simple as a PVC tube with a plastic flap.

Prototype 1 for Heart Valve

Fig. 2 Heart Valve Prototype #1


At first we struggled to get the design to allow the water to flow only one way, but after a few attempts and experimentation, we finally were able to get a working model even though it was not the most visually appealing valve (Fig. 2).

Prototype 2 Experimentation

Fig. 3 Prototype 2 Experimentation

If I could do this exercise again, I would have liked to have liked to have figured out a way to increase the speed at which the water flowed out of our valve, because the water merely trickled out of our heart valve. I would have also liked to have created a better system to stop the water from flowing the other way, because even though ours was successful, it was rudimentary and inconsistent at times. For example in Figure 2, we tried to add on a glove for water collection, but this instead hampered the opening/closing process of the plastic flap acting as the valve.