During the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, my roommate Raghave Upadhyaya and I felt compelled to use our Biomedical Engineering degrees to help in any way possible. When we heard of the difficult decisions Italian doctors were being forced to make due to a ventilator shortage, we immediately decided that we wanted to apply our efforts to ensure that doesn't happen anywhere else.

As such our primary goal was to create a ventilation device that could be rapidly reproduced and distributed to address the shortage. We do not anticipate the device being better than existing ventilators, but rather a viable alternative for a subset of patients. According to some of the physicians we questioned, a signifcant majority of COVID-19 patients that require ventilation only need a simple ventilation solution. Many hospitals are already equipped with an inventory of Ambu bags ready for health- care workers to manually ventilate patients in respiratory distress. We believe this existing arsenal can be utilized with our easily reproducible attachment device. Additionally, by automating the use of an Ambu bag, you can importantly reduce the viral load healthcare workers are exposed to. Our device is standalone operational, battery-powered, and rechargeable. This helps expand our use cases to rural areas across the country, and to developing countries abroad.

Future iteration of our prototype. Illustration by Molly Murray.

Finally, we wanted to be sure that low-resource areas both abroad and within the USA are not left behind. The prototype we created was under $150 in total, and we believe that number can be reduced to <$100 with mass production. Every part of the device can be easily bought and has numerous options for substitution. Additionally, by making the device rechargeable with just a handcrank, the device can be useful in areas without a reliable electrical grid.

The Daily Texan, Austin NPR, and Reporting Texas all published articles describing the work Raghave and I put in to help address the ventilator shortage. Additionally, our work would not have been possible with the support of Dr. Donald Elbert, Dr. Ziv Beckerman, and Dr. John Uecker. I will soon be posting a detailed description under projects of how we created the device so that others can reproduce it.