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Students Design Low-Cost Surgical Lamp for Developing Nations

Engineering students have developed a low-cost, battery-powered surgical lamp to be used in developing nations where electricity isn't reliable.

Earlier this month, members of Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives, or M-HEAL, sent their prototype lamp to Uganda where it will undergo testing.

"The power grid is very unreliable in developing countries," said Stephen DeWitt, co-founder of M-HEAL and leader of the team that built the lamp. "If you're in the middle of surgery and the lights go out, that's very bad news for the patient. We don't think that's acceptable. We're building a low-cost alternative that has a lot of the performance of a full-scale, Western surgical lamp." DeWitt is a graduating senior in engineering physics in the College of Engineering.

The lamp is made of a pie pan, a bike brake, a joint from a car rearview mirror and light-emitting diode flashlight components. It is affixed to an adjustable pole on wheels. DeWitt estimates it would cost around $300 to build, now that the team has developed the blueprints. That's more than $500 less than the closest competition.

"The lamp is really exciting because it's M-HEAL's first design project," said Julia Samorezov, a graduating senior in biomedical engineering and co-founder of M-HEAL. "These guys did a great job. They focused on what resources are available in the developing world and how to use local materials in a sustainable way."

M-HEAL's primary mission is to design, build and repair medical equipment to improve access to healthcare technology in the developing world. The group regularly travels to Detroit-based nonprofit World Medical Relief to repair used medical equipment and distribute it to places across the globe. M-HEAL plans to expand into more design projects. They also intend to improve the lamp with the feedback they get on the prototype. Eventually, they hope to produce an instruction manual so that these lamps could be built where they're needed with local materials.

Other members of the surgical lamp team are undergraduate biomedical engineering students Elliot Hwang, Michael Weist, Michael Harrison and Phil Guan; biomedical engineering graduate students Carl McGill, Seth Koehler and Chris Voge; and applied physics graduate student Abigail Mechtenberg. The team's faculty adviser is Aileen Huang-Saad, a lecturer and assistant research scientist in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Michigan Engineering:
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At more than $130 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference.

Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise Science News
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