Department of Engineering Science

Mark Finch

Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Biomedical Engineering (BME) Class of 2006

Photograph of Mark Finch

Research Engineer (2011)
Auckland Bioengineering Institute

I initially came to university with intentions of being a medical doctor, but I quickly decided against that after my first year! From there I went to sports science, because I loved sport and knew I somehow wanted that involved in my career. After a semester of Sports Science I decided that I needed something a little more innovative so I started a BE/BSC in Biomedical Engineering via Engineering Science. I later dropped the BSC because I found that I could do everything that I wanted to do with just the BE – I wanted to develop tools and techniques to help further improve athletes' performance.

The first three years of the BE degree taught me the analytical and design skills to solve real world solutions. The 4th year allowed me to choose some electives so that I could start tailoring my knowledge to my interests. For my 4th year project I designed and built a device to measure limb stiffness. The project was diverse in the sense that it involved both modelling and instrumentation.

After completing the BE I started a Masters Degree in Biomedical Engineering at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), where I designed, built and validated a wireless, miniature, electromyography (EMG) circuit coupled with a three axis accelerometer. This instrumentation allowed us to start characterising the relationships between muscle activity and functional movement in sport, exercise, and rehabilitation sciences.

After completing my Masters in 2008, I joined the ABI as a Research Engineer where I continued my research in bioinstrumentation, working on further developing the idea behind my Masters topic. My project has since evolved into a wireless, inductively recharged, implantable six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU), with an onboard three-axis digital compass.

In 2009 I won a two year grant from Auckland UniServices Ltd to find and develop market applications for this technology, effectively commercialising the technology, which is now termed WIMOTIONZ. I am currently designing a system that couples the IMU data with a dynamic mathematical model in an attempt to overcome accumulated integration errors that can arise when using accelerometry to accurately characterise the dynamics during movement.

In 2010 I was lucky enough to be accepted, and receive a scholarship to attend Stanford University’s Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship, which is a one month intensive course in entrepreneurship put on by Stanford Graduate School of Business. Whilst in the USA I also spent four months collaborating with Professor Ian Hunter’s group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s BioInstrumentation Laboratory as part of the MIT-ABI BioInstrumentation initiative, which is headed by Dr Andrew Taberner and funded by the Vice Chancellor’s Strategic Development Fund.

The Biomedical Engineering degree taught me a number of analytical tools and skills, physiological background, as well as encouraged design innovation. In my specific case, the combination of tools and physiological knowledge enabled me to identify the proposed problem in sport, systematically find a plausible solution to that problem, as well as the skills to actually design and build the technology to solve that problem. Hence, bringing that technology to market, illustrates a real-world example of what can be achieved when using a combination of the skills that are taught to us in the engineering degree.