Loughborough graduate’s £250 incubator could be life-saver in disaster zones

An inflatable incubator for disaster zones that costs just £250 has put a Loughborough University graduate in the frame for a major international design award.

The incubator, aimed at saving the lives of new-born babies in refugee camps, is the brainchild of James Roberts who entered it for the 2014 James Dyson Award which boasts prize-money of £90,000.

Costing a fraction of the £30,000 of a normal incubator, MOM has attracted plenty of interest and been named as one to watch by some commentators.

The incubator is inflatable, light and portable, provides stable heat and humidification, jaundice lighting and can run off a car battery for 24 hours.

James, who has just graduated from the Design School’s BSc course in Product Design & Technology, is approaching different organisations in a bid to make the design a reality.

He said: “I hope to get the invention picked up by both charities and investors so that the design can be further developed from a prototype into a real product.

“I would love to see an idea that I personally worked on maybe save the lives of children who are less fortunate than I am one day.”

James, 22, from Surrey, came up with his design as part of a final year project after watching a film about Syria, and hearing how many premature babies were dying in its refugee camps.

He believes MOM could be a life-saver in disaster zones and refugee camps where premature or vulnerable new-born babies may be days away from vital medical attention.

Something like 150,000 children are born in refugee camps every year and 27,500 die due to a lack of sufficient incubation.

James said: “Neonatal intensive care units have been around since 1922. So why, almost 100 years later, is this still a huge problem in some parts of the world?

"I believe my design helps solve this problem and could allow for certain children to gain a positive start in life, greatly decreasing the numbers of premature child deaths throughout refugee camps."

James’s design looks a bit like a concertina. Each end of the shell case contains electronics, including a ceramic heater, some fans, a humidifier, and an Arduino computer.

The collapsible middle section, which is made of transparent plastic, extends out and can be inflated into a bed.

James said: "This allows the incubator to fit into a very compact space for storage or transportation but will offer the same volume of a first world incubator when inflated for the child’s comfort.”

James has made two prototypes, a purely functional clear plastic box that demonstrates the technology, and an ‘aesthetic’ version that shows off what the product will eventually look like.

First prize for the Dyson Award national winner, announced on September 18, is £2,000. The international winner, which will be announced on November 6, receives £30,000 with £10,000 going to the university department.

The James Dyson Award is aimed at celebrating, encouraging and inspiring the next generation of design engineers and is open to current and recent design engineering students.

For more go to http://www.jamesdysonaward.org/en-GB/projects/mom/

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