The Biomedical Engineering Grand Challenge

The first of its kind at the College of Health sciences; the Biomedical Engineering Grand Challenge 2014 saw five projects being presented by fresh men of Biomedical Engineering working in teams. Projects were being assessed on how they address community problems, the innovation and the technology in the proposed innovation. The five teams had projects focused on improvement of already existing technologies.
The event was held on October 24th 2014 at Makerere University College of Health Sciences Davies Lecture Theatre.
The theme was ÔÇÿImprove medical equipment management in UgandaÔÇÖ. The aims of the Grand Challenge were;
ÔÇó To promote research and innovation in the biomedical engineering field
ÔÇó To introduce Freshmen to the idea of innovation and problem solving in their field
ÔÇó To showcase the extra-ordinary talents and abilities of the freshment while motivating them to develop innovative solutions to save UgandaÔÇÖs most pressing challenges
Team 1 was working on improving the performance of the suction machine. The idea is to put a heater/percolator so that it heats and boils the liquid/fluid that collects in the collection jar when it reaches the half mark. This would help get rid of the accumulated fluid in the jar so that the doctor or any other theatre person does not have to physically remove and empty it.
ÔÇ£We believe it is already existing equipment; the benefit is that the doctor will not have to manually empty the pump all the timeÔÇØ, said one if the team members.
Team 2 is considering inventing an external solar-powered electron microscope to be used in rural areas where electrical power is a major challenge. The microscope would be using sun as the source of electricity. ÔÇ£Solar is more reliable as a source of energy. But it would not be used to image living cells since electrons kill the cells. However the use of the quantum mechanical measuring technique would be employed since it allows electrons to sense objects remotely without heating the imaged object.

Team 3 is also focusing on improving the suction machine and they based their idea on the machine they have interacted with in Mulago Hospital, which they said has numerous limitations. ÔÇØWhen the container that collects fluid is full and theatre staff forget to empty it, the machine is at risk of getting damaged. We are proposing to design one with 2 bottlesÔÇØ, the team pitched.

Team 1 is also focusing on improving the surgical diathermy. Electrosurgery and surgical diathermy involve the use of high frequency A.C. electrical current in surgery as either a cutting modality, or else to cauterize small blood vessels to stop bleeding. This technique induces localized tissue burning and damage, the zone of which is controlled by the frequency and power of the device.

Team 4ÔÇÖs idea is introduction of softolast mobile software aimed at improving access to diagnostic devices in Uganda. The proposed software would be able to provide information on what diagnostic devices are available in what health facility and location and the condition the device is in. ÔÇ£emob can be able to know which health facility has what equipment, e.g. instead of going to Mulago Hospital and then told to go to Kampala Imaging Centre, one can just send an SMS to a provided telephone number and get instant responseÔÇØ, one team member said.

Team 5 is looking at designing a monitoring device to suit the demand of biomedical engineers; a one-to-many monitoring interface. In this case, one biomedical engineer would be able to monitor performance and condition of many devices by just a computer monitor. Software would be mounted onto a server and all devices and information about them entered into the server.

The team were congratulated by the Dean, School of Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Charles Ibingira, for their brilliant and relevant ideas. He however advised them to try and get more information about the devices and technologies they are proposing to work on, especially through more in-depth interaction with the health workers using the said devices.

Prize money ranging from USD 300-USD 150 will be won by the best two teams.