Archive for the 'design' Category

Mass Customization in Prosthetic Care

We’ve been up to a lot here at The BETH Project. Thanks in part to the support of the IDEAS Global Challenge and MIT Public Service Center, we’ve been busy prototyping, testing and talking to patients and prosthetists.

The BETH Project team first  came together at a MIT H@cking Medicine conference in early 2012, gathering around Asa’s proposal to leverage desktop 3D printing technology to respond to the need of low cost prosthesis in developing countries. Early on we identified that the challenges in providing prosthetic could not be simply solved by reducing existing device cost to increase availability. We began to investigate how the system of care was limiting affordable healthcare and mobility solutions for the global population.

A central problem to addressing the developing world was the lack of trained prosthetists, which essentially creates a bottleneck to meeting the demand for prosthetic care. Even today’s most advanced sockets are made using a half-century old iterative artisanal process that can take weeks and requires expensive specialized machinery.  The limited labor force in combination with the overhead costs results in care facility consolidation making it even more challenging for patient with limited mobility to access the care they need. The World Health Organization estimates there is a shortage of 40,000 prosthetists in the world today and at the current rate it will take 50 years to train another 17,000. This insight led us to design our solution from the ground up instead of trying to attach our ideas onto the existing fabrication and care paradigm.

As with many personal medical devices, understanding the challenges requires getting up close and personal with the problem. Unless you are close to a loved one who wears a prosthesis or you work in the industry, you would not be aware of the daily routines and maintenance that comes with using an artificial limb. After speaking with amputees who have worn prostheses from anywhere from a few months to sixty years, the one concern that came up over and over again was comfort. The difference between comfortable and uncomfortable is quite subtle and a common means to adjust for greater comfort is to grind the hard socket as shown in the image below.



The socket is the core component to a comfortable fitting prosthesis because forms a crucial interface between an amputee’s residual limb and his or her prosthesis. Structurally sockets are unique in that they are required to carry heavy loads and function as an  extension of our skeletal structure, but at the same time provide a comfortable interface where contact is made with an amputee’s soft muscle and skin tissue. Our goal of providing a comfortable fit with a simple fitting process led us to explore socket material alternatives. Conventionally, this is the rigid composite receptacle that is attached to the top of lower-limb prostheses. Unlike the rest of the prosthetic limb, which is generally a standardization part, the socket must be custom fabricated for each individual then painstakingly fitted, adjusted and replaced over time. Ill-fitting sockets are common because of the natural volume changes in our bodies which leads to and uncomfortable fit and if not adjusted, sores that can lead to infections that ultimately compromise amputee health and mobility.


The BETH Project is focused on addressing these challenges with an adjustable socket design that provides the ability to accommodate natural volume changes and reduce pressure on sensitive areas to promote faster healing of sores while extending the usability of a prosthetic limb. Our chosen material provides the opportunity to tap the benefits of mass manufacturing rather than local fabrication, thus lowering costs for all care providers and creating a consistent quality standard for sockets. In places where trained personal and facilities are a premium we hope to relieve care providers from the complexities of socket fabrication, and in some cases providing the opportunity for physical therapists who have transferable skills to fit and provide rehabilitative care to amputees.

Pitches and Posters: An Evening of Ideas

By guest author Vijay Shilpiekandula, Volunteer for MIT IDEAS

Lights, camera, action! The stage was set and the players – MIT teams, armed with posters showcasing their ideas — thrived in the spotlight. The MIT Stata Center saw a flurry of activity on April 30, 2012 as 37 teams led by MIT students pitched their projects to an expert panel of judges at the Poster and Judging session. This year’s teams spearheaded a wide array of projects involving product design, business innovation, and sustainability, all aimed to meet global community needs.

Grooming Innovators

Building the workhorse of innovation is more of marathon than a sprint. Long hours, late night discussions, and last minute debugging of models and plans were the norm. For some, it started from introductory meetings with others in the MIT and Greater Boston community, through multiple IDEAS Generator dinners organized over last fall and this spring. For others, it started from brainstorming with passion in their dorm rooms and department labs.

Over different phases of the competition, the teams wrote project proposals that went through multiple rounds of review and revision. Meanwhile, the teams made connections with the communities that would directly benefit from the team’s idea.

“It started as a small idea, [but it] grew organically,” said Kevin Kung, one of the participants whose team is composed of MIT graduate and undergraduate students, as well as volunteers, mentors, and community partners.

Passion Shows

“This is great evening… for the commitment you [students] show to the community,” said Professor Amy Smith, who had founded the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge 11 years ago and, more recently, the MIT D-Lab. She continued with advice on pitching to the expert panel of judges, a team of 40 formed from MIT administration, government, industry, and academic professionals from all over the world. “Tell [the judges] your idea,” Smith said, emphasizing the need for teams to voice their experience with their projects, how they toyed with the idea, what worked, what did not, and what lay ahead.

As judges and audiences came by to the posters, each team employed a variety of tools ranging from slideshows and prototypes to business models and lessons learnt from actual field trials in the communities they targeted.

“They [judges] asked me very intriguing questions,” said Srikanth Bolla, a student in MIT Sloan, who spent the last few months honing his team’s proposal, and more than a year laying the groundwork that helped his team tackle the judges’ questions. Along with Bolla’s team, which targeted education, training, and sustainability, the IDEAS teams this year came up with innovative solutions to challenges in fields such as water clean water, healthcare, mobile devices and communication, housing and transportation, disaster relief, finance and entrepreneurship, and agriculture and processing.

The Awards Ceremony: a shout out to Innovation and Public Service

We look forward to celebrating the investments that went into this year’s projects. On Thursday May 3, 6-9pm in the MIT Stata Center 32-123, the IDEAS Global Challenge will be announcing the winners and showcasing the student enthusiasm for the world at large. There will be a lecture by guest speaker Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, and a special toast to the students!

Trash Into Art

This week, the Trash Into Art installation is on display in the MIT Stata Center, first floor.

The goal of Trash Into Art is to raise awareness around the value of waste materials such as cardboard, Styrofoam, plastics, metals, and other objects found in a garbage can. A crucial focus is the impact of waste on marginalized people and communities.

This exhibition features student artists who were challenged to collect pieces of waste for a week, and to create a thought-provoking project from materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

The installation is one component of the larger “Waste: Put it to Use” Yunus Challenge, presented by the MIT International Development Initiative in collaboration with MIT D-Lab and the IDEAS Global Challenge.

For more photos, click here.

Embrace and Me: A Follow-Up to ‘Notes “Product Development for the Other 90%”’

By guest author: Hamsika Chandrasekar

I read Bina’s Notes on “Product Development for the Other 90%” and felt a spark of interest when I came across her description of Embrace, a social enterprise that has developed an innovative, low-cost infant warmer to help keep low-birth-weight and premature infants warm. Thanks to the combined support of the MIT Public Service Center, Baker Foundation, and Kelly-Douglas Fund, I was able to spend the last month in India, working to launch Embrace’s infant warmer at the Shamlaji Tribal Hospital in Gujarat.

This hospital is located in the small village of Shamlaji, about two hours outside Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city. It is managed by a husband and wife doctor team, Drs. Haren Joshi and Pratima Tolat, who ensure that the free treatment provided at Shamlaji Tribal Hospital is of high quality. Working with Embrace, I selected Shamlaji Tribal Hospital for my service project due to its focus on rural healthcare and its high numbers of low birth weight infants. When I arrived at the hospital, I found two packages, both marked ‘most urgent,’ waiting for me in the hospital office. I opened one quickly and happily held up its contents: the Embrace infant warmer. Looking back now, I still remember that sense of excitement and purpose I felt when I unwrapped the device. I couldn’t believe that after all the emails, the training sessions, the conference calls, and the planning, I was finally at Shamlaji Tribal Hospital, working with an organization I had heard about through a TedTalk and immediately loved.

My first day, unwrapping an Embrace infant warmer

I spent nearly three weeks in Gujarat, conversing with the doctors and nurses and showing them how to operate the infant warmer.

During my time there, nine infants benefited from the Embrace product, absorbing the warmer’s heat and gaining weight during their hospital stay. Together, the nurses and I monitored these babies and collected data on each infant. I was happy to see that the nurses quickly became comfortable with the Embrace product, taking it out whenever a newborn weighed between 1.5 kg and 2.5 kg, the recommended weight range for product use.

A (2.5 kg) infant sleeping peacefully in the Embrace infant warmer

The biggest challenge for me was the language barrier: I spoke no Gujarati and very little Hindi, the two most prominent languages in the region. I worked with the hospital staff via an interpreter, pausing at the end of each sentence and allowing her to translate what I had said. With her help, I also explored some of the other healthcare needs in the area, meeting with the head of Shamlaji Village and traveling out to the Himmatnagar Civil Hospital, to which many patients from Shamlaji Tribal Hospital are referred.

For me, this project served not only as an opportunity to perform hands-on service work but also as a reminder of the realities in impoverished regions and the challenges involved in the improvement of rural healthcare. For every baby born in Shamlaji Tribal Hospital, many more are born at home, never receiving proper care and often dying due to preventable reasons. Parents, desperate to have kids that survive past infancy, pay little attention to established family planning methods. Poor education makes it difficult for villagers to comprehend the dangers associated with at-home deliveries and improper antenatal care. Throughout my time in Gujarat, I was reminded of how much more I – and for that matter, anyone in the world – could do to help.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is currently a junior at MIT and a previous PSC expedition grant recipient. She is double majoring in Computational Biology (Course 6-7) and Neuroscience (Course 9), hopes to enroll in medical school following her undergraduate years, and ultimately wants to pursue a career in global health. 

From the Field / Solar-Powered Autoclave

The Solar-Powered Autoclave team is working on harnessing the sun to power autoclaves for improved sterilization of medical devices. This week they’re down in Nicaragua working with women from the solar tech start-up Solar Women of Totogalpa.

Two quick peeks into what they’re working on:

SolarAutoclave / Nica July 2011

Teammate Ted working with the women in Ocotal.

From Anna: The photos are from Ocotal, Nicaragua outside of the IIH-MEDIK lab and include Alejandra, Yelba and Maria from the Solar Women of Totogalpa and Juan Miguel a local lab technician who was part of the MEDIK class taught by IIH.

MIT Global Challenge Partner Wins Design Award!

Kudos to the entire IdeaCouture team led by Cheesan and Caroline for your outstanding work – we’re thrilled and here’s bending an elbow to you!

From PRWeb.com:

There is no shortage of wicked problems. Or good ideas. What would a digital platform look like for MIT’s powerhouse of innovative and entrepreneurial minds to collectively problem-solve the challenges faced by under-served communities without clean water, health care or reliable energy? That was the starting point for Idea Couture, the strategic innovation and multi-disciplinary design team that built and continues to power the MIT Global Challenge.

Recently honored with a prestigious IDSA 2011 International Design Excellence Award (Silver), in the category of Best Interactive Product Experience, the MIT Global Challenge is a digital co-creation platform that inspires, enables and supports the global MIT community to apply innovation as public service and drive solutions to the greatest global challenges.

Read the full announcement here.

IDEAS and Global Challenge Teams – Delivering Impact

Thanks to all the teams that recently providing some exciting information about the progress you’ve made over the last year to tackle barriers to well-being in communities around the world. Here’s a round-up of some of the good stuff we’ve learned:

6Dot (Braille Labeler)

· Milestones. In the spring of 2011 6Dot moved into new offices of the Stanford student venture incubator, SSE Labs. 6Dot has gained awareness through participation in three major conferences and expos, including the Stanford Cool Projects Expo, the California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEVBI) conference and the CSUN International Technology and Persons with Diabilities Conference.

· Impact. 6Dot has begun low-volume production up to 250 of their Braille labeling devices for market. As of April 2011 they had secured more than 70 pre-sale commitments.

· Income. In May 2011 6Dot won $10,000 in the Stanford Product Showcase.

· Press. The 6dot Braille labeler was featured in a TV report by ivanhoe.com, which features “Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science.”

BLISS

· Milestones. On May 11 BLISS introduced the Sozankaar collection of bags. Sozankaar means, “skilled with the needle” in Dari. BLISS has operationalized its partnership with Boston-based charity Barakat to provide its curriculum and training program in participating schools in Pakistan. On September 7, BLISS founder Saba Gul and BLISS were commended by the U.S. State Department in a gathering that featured Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. BLISS raised $8k as a finalist in the Unreasonable Institute marketplace, earning a coveted spot in their summer Institute.

· Income. $8,000 Unreasonable Institute;

· Press. BLISS founder Saba Gul (SM ’09) featured in the March/April edition of MIT’s Technology Review.
Founder Saba Gul’s International Women’s Day post for ThinkChangePakistan.

EmpleoListo! (AssuredLabor)

  • Milestones. Launched in Nicaragua and Mexico, AssuredLabor/EmpleoListo! has signed up over 100,000 job seekers. More than 40 prestigious employers, from Philip Morris International to Alcatel-Lucent to MacDonalds and Wal*Mart as well as numerous national and local businesses use the service to recruit candidates. Now has 14 full-time employees based in 4 countries, including: Nicaragua, Mexico, Pakistan and the United States. In October 2010 won the Omidyar Fastpitch Competition.

· Impact. Hundreds of successful job matches made.

  • Income. Raised $1M from prestigious angel investors and Venture Capital funds across 3 continents.

· Press. Recently profiled for their work with MIT’s Sloan Entrepreneurs for International Development by the MIT News Office; featured in Fast Company, “Text Here for a New Job”; and VentureBeat, “A Mobile LinkedIn for the Developing World”.

Continue reading ‘IDEAS and Global Challenge Teams – Delivering Impact’

Farmhack@MIT Ignite! Pitches

Farmhack@MIT

Farmhack@MIT

Hey there’s a great event coming up at MIT in early March. Its called Farmhack, and the purpose is to bring together New England small-scale farmers and MIT engineers to identify projects for collaboration. There seems to be a consensus that the equipment available is costly, or simply does not respond well to the needs, constraints, and conditions of America’s small acreage farmers. Some of the areas that have come up include seeding technologies, soil monitoring systems, lifestock monitoring systems, irrigation systems. And more! So, if you are a New England farmer or an MIT engineer interested in using small-scale farms as laboratories for innovation, join us! Here are the details.

Farmers -

Do you come away from visits to other farms inspired by a tool or system that you just saw?  Have you invented things on your farm?  Can you describe some challenges on your farm that a team of farmers and engineers might be able to address with a new tool?


Engineers and Designers -

Do you have technical skills that you want to apply to the real world in real time? Are you interested in a direct relationship with the solutions our society needs? Have you considered applying your skill-set to sustainable agriculture?

Continue reading ‘Farmhack@MIT’

Oct 21| MIT Agricultural Processes Challenge kick-off

[Cross-posted from the MIT Food + Agriculture Collaborative]

October 21, 2010: Yunus Innovation Challenge Kickoff dinner, from 7:00 to 9:00pm, R&D Pub Lounge (Stata Center, 4th Floor).

PROBLEM

Around the world, 550 million smallholder farmers lack access to mechanized agricultural technology. Many important food staples like maize (corn) and grains (e.g., rice or wheat) are harvested and processed by hand, which is both labor intensive and time consuming. This year’s Yunus Challenge calls for locally and environmentally sustainable innovations to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

THE CHALLENGE

The 2011 Yunus Challenge will be awarded to participants who create an innovative solution that has the most potential to increase adoption of beneficial agricultural technologies, financial systems, or market access among smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods. Participants are encouraged to put their energy toward creating solutions that overcome the behavioral and situational hurdles of the adoption of agricultural innovations, rather than looking at the challenge only in terms of the creation of new technologies. That said, the proposed solution may involve a physical device.