Polytechnic holds WiSci alumni workshop

By | October 10, 2018

Polytechnic holds WiSci alumni workshop

PIC: Dr Richards facilitating the workshop
U.S. Department of State science envoy, Dr Rebecca Richards, a professor in biomedical engineering, conducted a workshop on Saturday, 15 September, 2018. This took place in the design studio of the Engineering Department. The workshop was conducted for specific girls invited to the so-called Steam Girls Camp.

During the event, Dr Richards presented the girls with two challenges. The students were asked to brainstorm and to create a new solution or technology to solve a public health challenge. The first challenge involved improving on the milk-drip device, which allows mothers of premature infants to pour milk into a cup attached to an orogastric tube to feed their infants. The problem was that the milk-drip device often resulted in overfeeding of infants.

The team was put into groups to develop a low-cost device that allows infants to control the pace of feeding. The criteria were that the device must be able to do the following: accurately measure a volume of 5-40 ml, be reusable, be easy for illiterate mothers to use, and be easy to clean.

The last challenge was to come up with an insulin device as a solution to diabetes, a disease in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body`s cells do not respond properly, or both. Accurate measurement and administration of insulin is a challenge for elderly patients, or those with low-literacy and numeracy skills. Consequently, the team was tasked with developing a low-cost device that is compatible with current insulin syringes to ensure accurate dosage for patients with low literacy or numeracy skills, or with poor vision.

Some of the criteria were that the device must be of low cost and must be easy for patients or community health workers to use with compatible insulin syringes of less than 1ml.

Every member participated by jotting down an idea, which was then explained to fellow members; simple sketches were drawn for illustration. The sketches were then stuck to a board where everyone could see.

Every idea was analyzed based on its feasibility and impact. The one that had high feasibility and impact stood out to be the best idea. This was used for prototyping using many kinds of different materials that were available.  One member from each group presented the prototype to the whole team. Finally, two teams with the best prototypes were recognized.

The students also had the opportunity to learn more about one of the technologies developed by 2016 Polytechnic engineering graduates, Francis Masi and Andrew Ndalama. They developed a phototherapy dozing meter (blumeter), which is a device that measures the amount of blue light required to treat children with Jaundice.

Francis Masi demonstrated how the blumeter works by explaining what the readings represent on the blumeter when treating patients. The blumeter has readings ranging from 0-15, 15-30, 30-65 and above.

 

“If the readings range from 0-15, it means that the blue lights are too low for a patient to be treated.  If the ranges are from 15-30, it means that the patient can be treated, but with some problems, and from 30-65, it means that the patient can be treated effectively without any problem. Finally, if the readings range above 65, the patient has been too exposed to blue lights and cannot be suitably treated,” he explained.

Masi has encouraged Poly students to utilize the knowledge and skills they acquire from their different studies to develop various prototypes that can contribute to the economic development in Malawi.

Currently, Francis Masi and Andrew Ndalama are working as project managers at Polytechnic design studio. Francis Masi has a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering, and Andrew Ndalama has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Their blumeter is currently being used in various hospitals.

 

A first -year student from University of Malawi—College of Medicine Jacqueline Malombe said that she had learnt that everyone can find simple solutions to some of the problems through brainstorming, designing and engineering. “I guess that those who did not attend the workshop missed out on the opportunity to learn and get exposed to some of the situations, and they should probably attend if there is a next workshop,” she said.

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