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ME Student Places 2nd in BYU 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Luke Taylor is fulfilling his dream of being an inventor, and he's inventing devices that help other people.

Image of Luke Taylor presenting his research

As a child, whenever someone asked Luke Taylor what he wanted to be when he grew up, he, like many kids, said “inventor.” Now whenever his mom tells this story, she starts tearing up because her son has grown up to be just that.

During his master’s research in Mechanical Engineering, Luke worked with Dr. Ben Terry on medical devices for the gastrointestinal tract. They noticed a problem: physicians used advanced devices called medical capsule robots that went through the digestive tract and could do things like take pictures or place sensors. But the doctors couldn’t tell where the capsule was in the patient’s system. If a swallowed camera took a picture of a bleeding lesion, the doctors needed to know exactly where it was so they could treat it effectively.

The research team began working on a pill that could track how far it had gone in the body by tracking how many revolutions it had made, just like an odometer in a car. Within the capsule, a spool was tightly wound with dissolvable suture thread. The end of the thread stayed behind, anchored to a stable point (In the body, the stable anchor would be in the stomach.) By counting the number of the spool’s revolutions, they could track how far that capsule had traveled. Initially, the team rolled the device across a table and checked how well it tracked that distance. Next, they sent it through a simulated intestinal environment made of plastic tubing and then through the intestines of cadaver pigs.

The next steps are to send the capsules through living pigs, then into humans for clinical trials. This will take years, and with Luke having graduated April of 2024, Dr. Terry will continue the research with other students. But during the last semester of his master’s program, Luke heard of a contest for presenting research called the “Three Minute Thesis Competition,” aka 3MT. He decided to give it a shot, practicing his presentation in front of fellow students and refining his delivery. The challenge was to communicate information in a way that both experts and laymen could understand. He first won the 3MT competition for the mechanical engineering department, then for the college of engineering. Finally, he presented “Improving Medical Capsule Localization” in the Varsity Theater in front of the entire university and placed second at the BYU campus-wide 3MT competition.

His presentation is on YouTube now for anyone to view–there’s a link below. He starts with an analogy, discusses the problem, and describes their device. All of this is done clearly and simply, and the audience can understand despite the complex nature of his work. More than just a good engineer, he’s able to explain his good engineering to others.

And that’s what he wants to accomplish as an inventor and engineer: helping others. He’s done it as a missionary in Japan, as a husband to his wife, and as a dad to his toddler son. Now he’s going on to help others in his career as a mechanical engineer. Definitely someone who makes their mom proud.