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Student Fights Child Mortality With Genius New Device

This is “MOM” – an inflatable incubator designed to save premature babies born in refugee camps.

This new device could help save millions of lives.

As humanitarian crises threaten millions of lives each year, more and more citizens worldwide are being forced to take refuge in camps. As a result, it’s estimated that over 150,000 children are born in these camps each year, with 27,500 dying due to lack of proper medical equipment. One particular shortage is of incubators, a vital instrument for keeping low-weight and pre-mature babies artificially protected and healthy.

In 2014, British graduate student James Roberts of Loughborough University recognized this need. After his invention of a portable, low-cost incubator, primarily built to function in refugee camps, he won the prestigious James Dyson Award. Called MOM, the incubator can be flat-packed for quick transportation, and utilizes electronic components meant to require little power. One incubator can easily run for over 24 hours using just a car battery.

A basic Arduino board can be programmed to regulate temperature and humidity, also sounding an apnoea alarm.

MOM works by utilizing a sheet of plastic divided into transparent inflatable panels that can be manually blown up and heated by a ceramic base. From there, an Arduino board can regulate temperature and humidity. The system is so complete it even contains a phototherapy lamp to treat and prevent jaundice.

Roberts was initially inspired to create this project by a BBC documentary that focused on the issues facing women who give birth in refugee camps—many of whom are ill equipped to deal with complications. The issue has grown so large that, according to South Africa’s Design Indaba, “authorities are referring to these babies as ‘the lost generation.’” One of the main reasons this incubator has science and medical professionals so excited is its cost: while standard incubators can cost upwards of £30,000, a MOM incubator can be created and delivered for around £250.

Now that he has received £30,000 in award money, Roberts would like to begin the manufacturing of the incubators and start shipping them out by 2017.

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