MIT Student Inventor Awarded
Nikolai Begg has invented a puncturing device with a highly sensitive tip that
retracts its blade at the exact moment necessary, within 1/100th of a second.
By Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor, PD&D
Each year, MIT’s Lemelson program awards an outstanding student inventor for his or her contribution
to innovative technology. This year, Nikolai
Begg was awarded the $30,000 prize for
his portfolio of cutting-edge medical devices. The main inspiration behind his work
was a quest to create less invasive surgical
tools, and by all means, he is succeeding.
Begg’s philosophy towards engineering
medical devices is refreshing and poignant. Like many passionate engineers, he
is fearlessly imaginative and committed
to the inventive process. What makes his
approach notable, and in this case highly
effective, is his compassion and dedication
towards solving a problem.
laparoscopies, epidurals, and bone marrow
biopsies, which are all characterized as
puncture-access procedures—that is, they
all require an initial puncture step in what
is considered to a be minimally-invasive
procedure. However, what makes these
initial punctures troublesome is that they
continue to tear forward upon breaking
the necessary tissue. The surgeon must
respond by knowing when to retract force,
while risking a potential danger to the
patient’s underlying organs. This was one
of the many issues Begg set out to combat.
As a result, he has invented a puncturing
device that retracts its blade at the exact
moment necessary. The highly sensitive tip
is said to be capable of withdrawing within
1/100 of a second.
The major innovation Begg has made
with this particular device is the flexural
linkage, which reduces a 12-part hinged
linkage to one part with flexural elements.
The linkage amplifies and converts the
A Portfolio of Innovative Devices
There is a persistent challenge in the
medical industry for making more non-invasive surgical devices. This is a particular challenge for such procedures as
axial force into a radial friction-locking
force, which holds the tip in an extended
position until the tissue is punctured.
Another surgical device in Begg’s award
winning portfolio is a tissue retractor that
holds organs away during laparoscopic
surgery, without the traditional requirement of a dedicated incision. Its flexibility
configures to an expanded position once
it is inside the abdomen, where it fixes
itself onto the abdomen wall in order to be
accurately positioned throughout the procedure. Rather than clamping or piercing
the organ, it holds an organ out of the area
through its tensioned, retraction mechanism.
Plenty of other innovations reside in
Nikolai Begg’s bag of tricks, including a
device he developed with a team of colleagues that cleans fog or debris from
the lens of a laparoscopic camera during
surgical procedures. The device efficiently
restores the surgeon’s view, without hav-