Nintendo Wii CPR Earns American Heart Association Support

The American Heart Association (AHA) has pledged $50,000 to fund the work of University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) biomedical engineering undergraduate students who are working to develop a computer program that teaches CPR using handheld remote controls from the Nintendo® Wii video game console.

Students James McKee, Jack Wimbish, Haisam Islam, and Zach Clark began work on the project as seniors at UAB. Along with faculty advisers Greg Walcott, M.D., associate professor of medicine, and Jack Rogers, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering, the team has been developing the Wii CPR technology for the last seven months. Based on an idea initiated by Walcott, the technology is a computer program that can be downloaded on home computers and synched with the wireless technology of the Wii remote to teach users proper CPR technique.

"We began talking about the possibility of using the Nintendo Wii to teach CPR last January, and that is when we initially contacted the American Heart Association about the idea," Walcott said. "The Heart Association wanted a better sense of how it might work, so we assigned the research to our senior year biomedical engineering students this past spring semester for their senior project."

The UAB team worked on the Wii CPR project for its Design in BME biomedical engineering course, which required the students to successfully design and construct a prototype of the technology for real-world use in order to pass the course. After a successful class presentation in May, which showed the students' progress and the real potential for the technology, AHA contacted UAB to offer the education grant, Rogers said.

"The Heart Association's high interest in our students' innovations points to potential of this project and how it fits in with its desire to deliver reliable CPR education to the masses," Rogers said.

When completed, the UAB Wii CPR program will become available on the American Heart Association Web site as an open source code download, which would make it free and available to anyone with Internet access. The UAB team says it could complete its program development by early fall of 2009.

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