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Making the world a better place, one baby at a time

This is awesome.

The $400 Rice CPAP machine

Conditions associated with premature birth, often related to breathing problems, are responsible for about 30 percent of neonatal mortality. In the developed world, these conditions can be treated using bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. But these CPAP machines cost $6,000 and are out of reach of most hospitals in Malawi.

So five engineering students at Rice, in the 2009-10 school year, built their own bubble CPAP machine out of spare parts. It worked. In the last two years they’ve found a manufacturer and tested a machine that costs just $400. Thanks to a grant from USAID, the machines are now being distributed to more than two dozen hospitals in Malawi.

Again, this was developed by undergrads at Rice, and it’s just the vanguard of technologies that the professors and their students are rolling out of the design kitchen.

The professors got the prize for their inventions and pioneering efforts to deliver low-cost technological innovations to improve health care in developing nations. After receiving the award they said all the right things about how it was a team effort, thanking the students and the doctors, nurses and patients in Malawi who they worked with.

And then they did something about it.

The professors in question are Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden, and the prize is the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation. Read the whole thing, it will make you feel better about humanity in general. Well done, professors.

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