March 2009

Seeking BME ideas that will change the world!

Final Submission Date: April 10

Tell us about:

  • A health-related technology
  • Invented by students
  • Addresses a real clinical need

You could win $10,000!
BMEidea is the United States' premier competition for biomedical and bioengineering students.

Prizes of $10,000, $2,500 and $1,000 will be awarded to the three winners, at an award ceremony in June 2009. Many BMEidea winners have gone on  to launch successful companies based on their invention.                            

Entries are judged on:

  • technical, economic and regulatory feasibility
  • contribution to human health and quality of life
  • technological innovation
  • potential for commercialization

Enter here. The 2009 winners will be announced at the Medical Design Excellence Awards ceremony at the Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East trade show in New York in June.

RPI's MineWerks: the future of demining?

A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students showcased MineWerks — a groundbreaking, patent-pending detection system that can sense the presence of many dangerous compounds from a distance at the March Madness for the Mind exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on March 21. Read more about MineWerks here.

Advanced Field and Laboratory Testing for a Sustainable Solar Sanitation System

Georgia Institute of Technology, 2008 - $34,333

The Georgia Tech Research Institute in partnership with the Emory University Center for Global Safe Water have designed, built and tested an innovative solar sanitation system for use in developing countries. Field prototypes of the systems have been constructed in rural areas in Bolivia with a local foundation partner. This system heats waste to temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius (140 F), which destroys disease causing micro-organisms and bacteria. Addition of lime or ash increases pH to promote microbial inactivation. The waste is rendered harmless for use as fertilizer within weeks.

The objectives of this research are to

  1. conduct basic engineering and clinical research to further evaluate the field performance of initial prototype systems (temperature, pH and heating times needed for microbial inactivation)
  2. construct and field test advanced prototypes in Bolivia
  3. establish micro-financing and NGO partners for rapid and scalable use of the technology.

Team working with the solar sanitation system.

Team working with the solar sanitation system.



Sustainable Community-based Arsenic Removal Systems in Remote Villages of Cambodia in South East Asia

Lehigh University, 2008 - $47,250

Drinking water drawn from underground sources has caused extensive arsenic poisoning among villagers in remote areas in Cambodia. Consequently, there is an urgent need for sustainable treatment processes that can provide arsenic-safe water to the affected population. This Sustainable Vision project aims to develop and implement a sustainable, community-based, wellhead technology modeled after an arsenic removal system operating successfully on the Indian subcontinent. More than 175 such units currently provide arsenic-safe water to nearly 200,000 villagers in West Bengal, India (near the Bangladesh border), a geologically and socially similar region. The project will place the arsenic removal technology at schools and other selected locations. 

Summer 2009 update: The project is in progress to install the first community based system in a village near Pnom Penh, Cambodia.

Low-Cost Solar/Wind Drip Irrigation for Small Farmers in Developing Countries

University of Massachusetts - Lowell, 2008 - $46,839

The aim of this project is to provide small farmers in developing countries with an affordable solar drip irrigation method that promotes the sustainable use of water and energy.  The world’s food security relies on improving irrigation techniques for smallholder agriculture in developing countries. The common irrigation practice is flooding with seasonal water gravity fed systems or diesel/gasoline-powered pumps.  Solar pumps are clean, efficient and have lower maintenance. Drip irrigation (DI) is 40% more efficient than furrow.  Depending on the crop, DI could allow three harvests per year instead of one in the rainy season, generating enough income to pay for the system.

Solar panel for the irrigation system.

Summer 2009 update: A prototype system has been installed on a small farm in Peru; results to date are positive.


Building A Global Network to Support Sustainable Information and Communication Technologies Entrepreneurship in Senegal

Pace University, 2008 - $32,550

NCIIA awarded Pace University a Sustainable Vision grant in 2007 to provide Senegalese students from the Thies University with the skills to exploit the opportunity for mobile phone and Web design based startups in Africa. Thies University students are currently competing to see who will take part in the next boot camp for mobile application development and Web design, while students from Pace University and partner institution Stony Brook University are participating in course on mobile application development for social changes.

This work will be expanded to grow a network by involving more students, faculty and universities, as well as stakeholders from the information and communication technologies industry and real clients from diverse Senegalese communities. Faculty training and courses will be conducted in universities in Senegal. Replication of the model will be encouraged with the purpose of providing students in Senegal with opportunities to implement their ideas.

University of Thiès students working on new software applications of various cell phones.

Summer 2009 update: Thies University students are currently competing to see who will take part in the next boot camp for mobile application development and Web design, while students from Pace University and partner institution Stony Brook University are participating in courses on mobile application development for social changes.  A network has been built and organized using the MobileSenegal Ning network available at It involves students, faculty and universities, as well as stakeholders from the information and communication technologies industry and real clients from diverse Senegalese communities and even international organizations. A faculty training was conducted for 22 faculty of 7 universities in Senegal to encourage faculty to join the network and discover the field of mobile application development. The network is currently organizing a mobile application competition open to all university students in the country.

Building a Global Sustainable Supply Chain for Appropriate Technology

Colorado State University, 2008 - $45,800

To address the fact that over half of the world's population does not have access to safe and affordable products to meet their basic needs for simple tasks, PowerMundo was established as an innovative marketing, wholesale distribution, and micro-franchise company that connects people living in poverty to a network of sustainable resources. PowerMundo collaborates with non-profit organizations, private enterprises, educational and government partners to manage a worldwide distribution network for appropriate technology products. They also support local economic development in emerging markets. PowerMundo also provides opportunities for Colorado State University students to assist in the business planning and implementation. As a result, people's lives are improved, employment opportunities are created and natural resources are conserved.

PowerMundo lantern being used in a Peruvian village.



GlobalResolve: Development of a Sustainable Gelfuel Business in Rural Ghana

Arizona State University, 2008 - $45,150

GlobalResolve, a social entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University, will expand a successful project in village-based entrepreneurship that has resulted in the production of smokeless cooking fuel in the rural west African village of Domeabra, Ghana. More than 2 million children in the developing world are dying every year from acute respiratory disease caused by fumes from indoor cooking fires. To address this problem, in 2008 an Arizona State University team designed, built, shipped and installed a gelfuel production facility in Domeabra, and the project is on the verge of making dramatic improvements in public health throughout the region. The next step is helping to make this startup business successful and replicable. In partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, the Kumasi Institute of Technology, Energy and Environment, and the village chief and elders in Domeabra, this team has the primary objective to create a sustainable business model in Domeabra, Ghana, to produce, market and distribute both gelfuel and improved stoves in the region.


Clean Water and Energy Technology Enterprises for Ifugao, Philippines

Villanova University, 2008 - $49,000

Villanova engineering and business students are forming a partnership with the Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces Movement Organization (SITMo) and the Provincial Governor's Office of Ifugao to develop new technology-based enterprises for providing clean water and energy in the Ifugao region of the Philippines. An orientation program is being established to prepare for a site visit to explore potential opportunities. 

Villanova student and Louis Cabigat assessing the Abatan Micro Hydro system.

Summer 2009 update: Following the site visit, students will develop new technologies based primarily on innovative micro-hydroelectric projects, and explore potential business models for the technology transfer. The students will then return to the Philippines to work with partners to develop sustainable enterprises based on these new technologies.

Mashavu: Networked Health Solutions for the Developing World

Pennsylvania State University, 2008 - $46,850

Mashavu enables medical professionals around the world to connect with patients in the developing world using modern technology and communications infrastructure. The goal is to bring basic medical care to people in developing countries, using laptops, cell phones, innovative software and simple medical devices.


Trained operators at Mashavu stations in developing communities collect essential medical information including weight, body temperature, lung capacity, blood pressure, photographs, stethoscope rhythms, and basic hygiene and nutrition information for each patient on a regular basis. Web servers aggregate this information from various Mashavu stations over a cell-phone link and provide it on a web-based portal. Medical professionals can view the patient’s information and respond to the patient and the nearest doctor(s) with their recommendations. Validation efforts have shown that numerous entities are willing to purchase Mashavu stations. They can charge customers a small fee, thereby making Mashavu economically sustainable and creating an additional revenue stream.

Students and villagers working at a Mashavu station.