McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University
News from McCormick
KMC ApneAlert Team Wins Another Award For Design
A team of undergraduate students from Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering recently won a $10,000 prize for creating a device designed to keep more babies alive in the developing world.
Called the KMC ApneAlert, the small device can be attached to a baby to monitor its breathing. The device then alerts the mother if the baby stops breathing. Such a device is needed in the developing world, where incubators and heart rate monitors to monitor premature babies are few.
The device, designed by four McCormick biomedical engineering undergraduate students for their senior capstone design project, was named one of the top ten finalists in the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovation Technology Prize for Primary Healthcare competition — a selection that comes with a $10,000 award to support continuing efforts of the project. The team, consisting of students Lauren Hart Smith, Kurt Qing, Alec Zopf, James Yang, and Shonali Midha, is now in the running for the top $150,000 prize.
The device last year won the Biomedical Engineering Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship Award from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.
The team received $2,500 from that competition.
The project has roots in the global health technologies program in Cape Town, South Africa, where McCormick professors and students spend time creating devices for the unique medical needs of the developing world.
Since incubators are not readily available in many South African towns, the school and health professionals there have been encouraging mothers with premature babies to use a technique called Kangaroo Mother Care, where mothers keep their babies in skin-to-skin contact for hours and days at a time. This technique provides the baby with the warmth and thermoregulation it needs.
But such a technique doesn’t lend itself to the hulking monitors that normally keep track of a premature baby’s heart rate and breathing.
So a team of students tried to come up with an apnea monitor that could travel with mother and baby. A year ago, this team took over the project and modified the concept.
The exact appearance and functionality of the monitor is currently under wraps, pending patent applications, but team members say the tiny monitor is attached to the baby’s stomach and measures breathing through abdominal movements. If those movements stop, the monitor sounds an alarm to alert the mother that the baby might have stopped breathing. The mother can then stimulate the baby to induce a normal breathing pattern.
Further grant money could help make the device a reality, team members say. The winner of the competition will be announced in June.