Design That Matters: saving lives

DesignThatMatters Over four million children die each year before their first month of life; 99% of them in developing countries. Design That Matters, an independent nonprofit, and a low-cost design company serving the developing world, has tackled such a challenge with an incubator designed specifically for the needs of developing nations.

The device had only 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!

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

Have a 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. You can see their final presentation. 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.

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', Jeff Ray.

Matthew West

SolidWorks alumnus. I like plate reverb, Rat pedals, Thai curry, New Weird fiction, my kids, Vespas, Jazzmasters, my wife & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not necessarily in that order.