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Innovative, Student-Designed Medical Devices

March 3, 2010


Almost everyone in the developed world has heard of James Dyson, the British inventor who became famous touting vacuum cleaners. Dyson and his engineers pride themselves on both the effectiveness and the aesthetics of their products. Hence, sponsoring design awards seems like a natural fit for Dyson’s company. That is exactly what it does in Australia. “The Australian International Design Awards, a division of Standards Australia, and Dyson Appliances (Australia) have developed an inspiring program aimed at rewarding the outstanding talent that exists amongst our future Australian designers” The round one shortlist of entries for the James Dyson Award was recently announced. The shortlist trims nearly 100 student entries down to 29. Among the inventions that made the list are some meant to make work places easier and safer (e.g., an extension ladder and a portable winch). Other shortlist inventions are meant to make recreational activities safer or more affordable (e.g., mountain bike body armor, a better fitting biking helmet, a cleverly designed mini-travel trailer, a new oarlock for racing shells, and a bike light that illuminates both the rider and the area ground around him/her). Still other inventions are intended to help save lives and property (e.g., a firefighting reconnaissance vehicle, a new fire hose nozzle, a security gate for swimming pools, an oxymoronic “bumpfree” dynamic speed bump, and a buoyancy deployment system that can quickly provide flotation to people at risk of drowning). Since the inventions are designed by students, one shouldn’t be surprised to find drink-related inventions among the entries (e.g., pub speakers that permit customers to select which program they listen to in a pub showing multiple sporting events and a “kegless” beer container). One of my favorite entries is a “Ribbon Ceiling Fan” that dramatically updates the look and feel of the traditional ceiling fan.


The category containing the largest number of shortlist entries, however, is medical devices. Students were probably encouraged to submit medical device designs because a medical device won the 2008 competition. That device was a “walking aid” that addressed “the functional and ergonomic shortcomings of current traditional, mass produced, forearm crutch designs.” The 2010 entries in the medical device area include:

The Outer Ear — Designed by Jack Allwood, “the OE converts sound waves into physical vibrations that the user can feel on their skin. A direct translation from sound to vibration gives the user the power to understand the most complex of sounds. The OE will revolutionize not only the deaf community but it could change many facets of human life. The simple act of wearing the devise collates and simplifies your life. The OE will bring the deaf community into a new era.”

The Modiv — Designed by Jake Eadie, the “Modiv is a revolution in wheelchair design. It is a personal transporter for those suffering from paraplegia and is a replacement to the standard electric wheelchair. What really sets Modiv apart is its duel modes, with both a sitting and standing mode the chair adapts to the everyday life of the user, enabling eye to eye conversation and increased public access in the standing mode, and greater distance travel capabilities in the seated mode. Modiv was created to improve the mental and physical life of the user.”

The Roto-Gurney — Designed by Mattias Harcourt-Cooze, the “Rota-Gurney is a hospital trolley used for the transportation of patients within the hospital environment. It uses a revolutionary conveyor belt system to smoothly slide the patient on and off the hospital bed. The entire mattress section as well as the guard rails incorporate this rolling action. This ensures that the transfer process is quick, easy and safe for the patient as well as the wards-person operating the gurney.”

The GMD X4 glucose monitoring device — Designed by Maximilian Aji Wijoyoseno, “the GMD X4 glucose monitoring device is a Universal design project which came about from a real life case study, in which a 37 year old man has type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease with a marked tremor of hands. This device aims to help users prick the finger and transfer the blood to the test strip easily. How this happens is by creating a tunnel feature in which the finger slots in, holding the finger in place for pricking and addressing the tremor issue. Sliding the finger forward the blood is tested and the result sent to hand phone.”

The Spinovo — Designed by Justine Smith, the “Spinovo, meaning ‘new spine’, is an electronic pain relief garment that has been designed to help relieve pain for chronic back pain sufferers. In contrast to other back pain products on the market, Spinovo offers a holistic approach to back pain by providing heating, cooling and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapies as well as preventing back pain through biofeedback. Spinovo provides therapy through removable packs which clip into the garment and provides feedback through the remote control interface.”

QCap subcutaneous syringe driver — Designed by Elizabeth Lewis, “QCap is a subcutaneous syringe driver that delivers pain management medications from a specifically designed syringe at a set time to dose ratio. This product solution involves three core elements; the design of a snap off syringe, a compact housing and a programming database. This system has also been extended to an adhesive dressing and operations manual. When these elements are used in conjunction with one another, QCap improves the efficiency and safety of infusing medications, improves all interactions and programming of the device, whilst also providing a solution that understands the mental and physical needs of patients.”

The Liberty Walker — Designed by Neil Strohbeck, “the ‘Liberty Walker’ design is a product set, consisting of a rollator, dual rails, brake coupling mechanism and a backrest. The design offers manual guided stair assistance for the user to ascend/descend household stairs. The rail assembly contains a brake mechanism that is able to couple with a free standing rollator. Once the rollator is coupled into the rail system, the user is able to brake the rollator by simply applying their body weight to the handles of the rollator, the rail also contains a backrest/harness assembly that has the capacity to brake upon the users weight being applied.”

The Pulse Heart Transportation System — Designed by Gonzalo Portas, “the Pulse Heart Transportation System is the result of a detailed research document into the procurement methods of human organs for the purpose of transplantation in Australia. … Since the commencement of organ transplantations, the foundation for the preservation of organs has been cold packaging in non-task specific containers such as ice boxes most commonly used for the storage of beverages. Current methods of organ transportation aim to preserve the heart in transit. The Pulse, actually sustains the life of the heart in its normal beating state. The donors blood is used to pump through the donated heart while the Pulse monitoring system calculates heart rate, temperature, transit time and flow pressure, allowing intensive care staff to assess the viability of the heart on arrival and in transit.”

The Oculus — Designed by Dani Thai, the “Oculus is a portable device for seamless and efficient sharing of patient information. It optimises investment in eMR by providing: access to patient data on a screen that mimics the charts used to write patient notes; ability to input information with a stylus, keyboard, or through handwriting recognition which allows users to work in ways that best fit their environment; ‘on the spot’ synchronisation with record keeping systems; access to x-rays and charts with the ability to project 1:1 scale; direct feed of critical messages from a patient’s bedside monitor; and the ability to cross check patient and patient records to ensure correct administration of medication.”

The Stryder — Designed by Dat Huynh, the “Stryder is a hybrid crutch and knee scooter for non-weight bearing lower leg injuries. It enables users to get around with greater efficiency of movement and less strain and fatigue on the body than using conventional crutches. Stryder works as a knee scooter for commuting in an urban environment and can fold into a crutch to navigate stairs and to assist in getting on and off public transport.”

The el-egance hearing aid — Designed by Ryan Kirkpatrick, “‘el’ is an attempt to reposition hearing devices from an aid to an elegant accessory. The design comprises of three types of components. These include a pair of hearing devices worn in each ear, designed for the purpose of compensating for impaired human hearing by amplifying and modulating sounds. Secondly two ring control units, worn on each index finger, provide a manual volume control for the hearing devices. Finally a charging and display case houses each of the aforementioned pieces and induction charges the hearing devices.”

If you want to learn more about the medical devices or any of the other student-designed inventions, click on the shortlist link provided above. While at the site, you can also look at the full list of nearly 100 entrants, amongst which you will find a number of other medical devices. If you’re about to give up on today’s youth, don’t do it yet. The talent and imagination demonstrated by these designers will inspire you with hope for the future.

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