SALT LAKE CITY -- Surgeons in the near future may have even better lighting when they cut open a patient, thanks to a Fremont High School graduate.
Jessica Ashmead, who is now a student at University of Utah, was chosen as a finalist in the national Collegiate Inventors Competition after she and her bioengineering partner, Annicka Carter, of Sandy, invented OptiGuide, a specially lighted medical retractor that could be used inside the surgical cavity.
"We did some research and read about problems with surgical lighting, and when talking to a surgeon, he also expressed that he has problems with surgical lighting," Ashmead said.
The two young women, both 20, are biomedical engineering majors. They traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to present their innovation to a panel of judges that included inductees from the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
If they do well in the final round of the competition, Carter said, they would like to get a full-fledged patent on their product and get it out on the market.
"The grand prize for the competition is $12,500," Carter said.
Both women are pursuing biomedical engineering because it combines all of the engineering specialties, including mechanical, electrical and chemical.
"I love being around people, and I love helping them, and this engineering path lets me do that," Ashmead said.
Both women also work at the University of Utah. Ashmead works at the U of U laboratory under the direction of Dr. Robert Hitchcock. Carter works as a bioengineer research associate for the Utah artificial heart program.
Ashmead is the daughter of Stephen and Stacy Ashmead. Carter is the daughter of Bret and Deborah Carter. Each also has a pet dog and cat and enjoys spending time outdoors and with family.
Ashmead said inventing something starts with an idea that needs to be researched.
"Find out if the world really does need it," she said. "Then from there it's just working out the bugs and asking the market what they want."
Both said they've learned that although an idea seems to already be on the market, it doesn't mean the consumer is satisfied.
"As innovators, we can provide solutions that fulfill the need," Carter said. "At least, that's what we've done."
The competition is run by Invent Now, which encourages students to share their inventive ideas with the world. Last year, Brigham Young University undergraduate student Mark Jensen won first prize with his invention of continuous fabrication of composite lattice pole structures.