Design That Matters: saving lives one project at a time

Over four million children die each year before their first
month of life; 99% of them in developing countries. For those of you who joined
us at SolidWorks World this year (or watched the videos), you’ll recall us
recognizing local nonprofit Design That Matters for
tackling this problem with an incubator designed specifically for the needs of
developing nations.



Well, DtM isn’t resting on its laurels; the engineering and
design students have taken on the next phase, providing a low-cost, low-maintenance respiration
for “thermoregulation” using CPAP (Continuous Positive Air
Pressure). This will help premature and low birth weight infants with
respiratory distress.

I’ll let you go to their website to learn more about the
medical condition – I’ve already exceeded the limits of my medical know-how.
So, let’s look at the winning design, as presented by a cross-functional team of students
from the MIT school of Engineering, the Sloan Graduate school, and the Rhode Island School of Design.


I was lucky enough to attend their final presentation and
was blown away by the team’s resourcefulness and problem-solving skills. Now,
these are students from very different backgrounds and disciplines, all thrown
together to attack this one problem against a strict deadline (the grading
cycle). So seeing them learn how to work together was fascinating. But the
design was cool. Most respirators cost from $2,500 – $9,000 and require lots of
training and expensive parts.

This device (shown above) had one moving part, and made clever use of
off-the-shelf products to save cost and complexity. It ended up coming in under
$600, and did all the important things of the fancy machines. The user
interface got the same attention as the device itself, with no words and simple
“happy face” and "sad face" pictures for three lights. There were three design goals:
affordability, intuitive UI, and the ability to be locally-maintained. The DtM students went
three for three!

What do we get out of this? Thousands of lives saved, and
the next generation of engineers and designers who are inspired to make this
world a little better. What a great time to be an engineer!