Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Project Links Thayer and Ghana Students

From left: BE student Miza Mwanza, Taringana Guranungo, and BE student Samantha Modder Skype with their project collaborators in Ghana. Photograph courtesy of Kofi Odame.

Thayer students Miza Mwanza Th’19, Taringana Guranungo ’18, and Samantha Modder ’17 recently met via video chat with students from Ashesi University in Ghana to design a device that distinguishes between upper and lower respiratory infections.

Working together through the Ashesi-Dartmouth Engineering Project (ADEPT), a pilot program launched by Thayer Professor Kofi Odame, the two teams developed a stethoscope retrofitted with an embedded computer chip that analyzes sound to detect fast breathing, a symptom of lower respiratory infection.

The modified stethoscope, which was sent to Ghana after completion, uses a piezoelectric sensor to detect chest movements and breathing rates. The novel device is self-contained and doesn’t require an Internet connection. The team hopes to refine the invention over the next year and eventually distribute it to community clinics in rural Ghana.

Odame, who is from Ghana, set the task of creating a diagnostic device for respiratory diseases based on his previous research in asthma-monitoring wearable devices. “In recent years, an effective vaccination program has reduced the urgency of pneumonia in Ghana,” he says. “However, community health centers in rural parts of the country do not have the resources to distinguish between upper and lower respiratory infections. Patients are referred to regional hospitals, which is inconvenient, costly, and causes a delay in treatment.”

The Ashesi team conducted field research in Ghana, while Thayer students oversaw the development phase to make and assemble the prototype in the machine shop. With her biomedical engineering expertise, Mwanza developed the interface between the user and the device and a questionnaire to improve the accuracy for detecting lower respiratory infections. Guranungo built an electric circuit for the system, and mechanical engineer Modder drew the sketches of the device.

“Thayer’s approach of giving students the freedom to choose classes without department limitation gave our group skills in many different areas,” says Mwanza. “Our ENGS 21 experience helped guide us through the process and we invested almost half of the eight weeks in identifying the real problem. We knew our end users were the only ones who could help us come up with a product that they would want to use.”

“One of the biggest things I learned from the project is the broadness and complexities of community health in Ghana,” says Guranungo. “The role that human-centered design played in problem identification and solution ideation allowed us to profoundly explore global health science in rural Ghana.”

ADEPT’s eight-week summer program, funded by the Dartmouth Provost’s office, is a first step in collaborations between Thayer and Ashesi. Says Odame, “The objective of the pilot project was to crystallize the relationship between Dartmouth and Ashesi around a concrete, collaborative design project.”

—Anna Fiorentino

Categories: The Great Hall, Initiatives

Tags: engineering in medicine, faculty, international, projects, students

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