Student innovators from the University of Auckland have been recognized on a global stage after winning top prize in the Engineering World Health (EWH) design competition.
The annual competition, run by the US-based non-profit EWH, invites students to submit innovative designs for medical technology that could make a difference in low-resource settings.
The winning team, formed by UoA’s STEM for Global Health club, bested students from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and UC Dublin to first place.
Their product, ‘Fishing’, is an integrated e-learning and resource management platform for healthcare facilities, allowing hospitals to keep track of broken equipment. It can also be used by nurses to access operation guides and help videos.
Team member Kiara Miller, a postgraduate student, describes how the idea was conceptualized while working in underequipped Ugandan healthcare facilities. “It did not take long before we noticed the absence of and incorrectly informed user guides for medical equipment,” Miller said.
“User training was rarely given to on the ground healthcare workers and there were no oversight capabilities for the management of equipment.”
The first prototype of ‘Fishing’ was showcased to EWH-affiliated hospitals in Uganda, while team members were overseas. “The idea was well-received for its novel and frugal approach to solving a bigger issue,” Miller recalls. “Hospital administrators [were] eager to implement it.”
Returning home, the team have been continuously working on developing the software. “With a human-centred design approach, we are working alongside local biomedical technicians and hope to partner with outreach programs such as EWH in the future.”
Meanwhile, the team’s significant accomplishment is a welcome surprise to the club itself, which was only established on campus last year. “It was amazing!”, club president Catriona Miller admits upon hearing the news. “Both the team and the Executive Committee were over the moon.”
“As it is our first year as an Engineering World Health Chapter, we were the underdogs in the competition and it was great to know that the team’s hard work paid off.”
For the ‘Fishing’ team, the success of winning the competition has only furthered their ambition to develop and roll-out the project. “We’ve been working very hard since the submission late May and even sought advice from Vaughn Ferguson (CEO founder of Vend),” Kiara reveals.
“Developing the system further in the lockdown, we do hope to get it out into hospitals in low-resource environments post-COVID 2021.”