January 2013

Open Minds 2013 Team: Sanergy

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Sanergy aims to provide accessible, affordable, and hygienic sanitation for everyone in urban slums. Solving the sanitation crisis requires more than just building toilets--Sanergy takes an innovative systems-based approach to build out the entire sanitation value chain. As of October 2012, the team had sold 103 Fresh Life Toilets and franchised to 50 entrepreneurs; created 122 jobs; removed 170 metric tons of waste from the community; and served 1,000,000 paying customers with hygienic sanitation.
 

 

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Open Minds 2013 Team: Project Gado

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Most mainstream news media, large museums and archives have already digitized their visual collections, making the photos widely accessible and generating revenue from license fees. But small institutions and archives typically lack the resources to pay for digitization, meaning that impressive collections are available only to the select few with physical access to the archive. An example is the Afro American Newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, which has a collection of 1.5 million photographs spanning 115 years of the city's African American history. The archive cannot afford to digitize, presenting a major problem for scholars and educators studying minority history and for members of minority communities seeking to understand their own history.

The standard business model for digitizing an archive’s physical photographs involves the archive paying a digitization company to scan each photograph in the collection, generally by hand, as materials are fragile. This team has developed an archival scanning robot, the Gado 1, which can lift fragile images using suction, place them on a standard flatbed scanner, scan them into a database at full archival-quality 600dpi resolution, and place them gently into an output bin, all without human intervention. The project’s goal is to create a robotic archival scanner that small archives can purchase and assemble for less than $500 and use to autonomously digitize their photographic collections.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: MAID (Magnetically Assisted Intubation Device)

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Airway stabilization is one of the most important steps in emergency care. Whenever an individual’s ability to breathe is compromised, long-term brain damage can occur in as little as six minutes. This team created a device that allows medical professionals to perform safe, easy, and fast intubations. Intubation is magnet-assisted: a system of magnets both outside of the neck and within the endotracheal tube helps the professional visualize the airway and enter the trachea without the need of a laryngoscope. The device is easily integrated with current intubation equipment and can be removed to allow for an MRI or similar test to be performed.

MAID also took Third Prize in the 2012 BMEIdea competition.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: MaxQ LLC

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Shipments of vaccines are often temperature-sensitive and require special care while in transit from manufacturer to end user. This presents a problem in emerging markets; about 50% of the vaccines shipped by the World Health Organization are damaged in transit. Even in the US, the vaccines for a children’s program faces a $20 million loss in vaccine wastage due to poor temperature regulation.

The MaxQ E-Team is developing MaxTemp, a series of multi-use, lightweight, insulated shipping containers made of a novel composite material consisting of a vacuum core sandwiched between two face sheet materials. The core contains a combination of space-grade, silica-based porous insulation material and structurally rigid honeycomb material, which are vacuum-sealed inside an aluminum-coated thin sheet. MaxTemp containers have three major advantages over existing insulated storage containers: they have much larger maximum usable volume (up to 80%), a higher insulation rating and high impact resistance

MaxQ also is currently participating in the Village Capital/VentureWell program.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: Serionix

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According to the EPA, as many as 17 million people in the US may currently be exposed to dangerously high levels of a toxic rocket fuel component, perchlorate, through public drinking water supplies. Perchlorate disturbs proper function of the thyroid and has an adverse affect on prenatal and neonatal development. On account of the risk posed to the public, in February 2011 the EPA issued a decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water. Currently, however, there are no economical or efficient options for removing perchlorate from water in point-of-use (POU) treatment units such as pitcher or faucet filters.

To fill the need, the Serionix team has developed a low-cost filtration medium capable of rapid and efficient POU removal of perchlorate from water. While other perchlorate-removing technologies exist, the team believes its ultra-fast uptake of the chemical will separate it from the competition.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: mSurvey

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In order to meet the needs of local communities in developing countries, NGOs, designers, governments, academics, and policy makers need comprehensive, accurate data. But existing data collection processes are time-intensive, costly, and ultimately extract information from communities without engaging the community members themselves in the analysis.

This team is developing mSurvey, a simple, accessible technology that uses text-messaging technology to survey communities through mobile phones in developing countries. The technology captures data in real-time from anyone with a mobile phone and pays each respondent with mobile funds. The survey’s model enables communities to reflect on the disseminated data results from each question asked, a unique feature absent from current survey methodologies in developing countries.

Mobile Surveys also is currently participating in the VillageCapital/VentureWell program.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: AssureFit

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Chest tube insertions are the most commonly performed surgical procedure in thoracic surgery. However, up to 30% of chest tube insertions involve complications that can include dislodgement, which requires immediate action. It is crucial to properly secure a chest tube on the first attempt so that the patient doesn’t have to undergo unnecessary pain and additional risk.

This team’s device will eliminate the current method of securement (sutures and adhesives) by decreasing the distance between the tube insertion site and the anchoring site. The device is comprised of an eight-petalled silicone elastomer ring that slides over the chest tube up to the insertion site, where it is sutured to the skin. The device can contour to the patient’s body with a secure form-fit because of the thin petalled design and the material used.

AssureFit also took First Prize in the 2012 BMEStart competition.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: Engineering2Empower

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Engineering2Empower (E2E) delivers safe and affordable permanent housing in the developing world. Limited financial resources, the absence of codes and standards, and poor quality control currently govern these housing sectors. Starting in post-earthquake Haiti, E2E has created an innovative approach to navigate these constraints by moving away from the established masonry system and toward a frame and panel system. E2E has engineered a U.S.-code-compliant concrete frame with lightweight concrete panels to  enclose and partition the home. The level of safety against earthquakes and hurricanes is greatly increased, but the cost, materials, and skill sets required to build it remain the same as the current model. Through other innovations, such as customizable payment plans, prefabricated components, and standardized designs, E2E is able to deliver the model through locally operated businesses.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: Assured Safety Drill

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It is often necessary for neurosurgeons to access the inside of the skull through small holes for procedures such as measuring pressure and draining fluid. Unfortunately, the current procedures are difficult to accomplish easily and safely. One of the main risks in cranial drilling is “plunging”—accidentally driving the drill bit into delicate brain tissue. Current drills do have safety features, but all have their drawbacks; the most versatile is a hand-powered drill with a manual stop that is inefficient in cutting through bone and hard for surgeons to use effectively. There are also powered drills, but the most popular device has to be accompanied by non-portable equipment and is limited to large drill bit sizes.

This E-Team has developed a handheld, portable, and reliably safe drilling device that can create holes in the skull with any size drill bit. The device is designed to be non-reliant on the drill's rotary motion, instead using a balance between spring forces and the reaction forces of the drill being pushed against the skull. The device also retracts as soon as penetration of the skull is accomplished. The device's portability and ease of use makes it well suited for applications in operating rooms, emergency rooms, military settings, and disaster relief areas.

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Open Minds 2013 Team: HESE Affordable Greenhouses

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Food security issues are escalating in East Africa, where over 60% of the population is malnourished. There is broad agreement on the need to help small-scale farmers boost their agricultural productivity, reduce spoilage and provide links to markets. Greenhouses can help farmers increase yields, but the greenhouses currently sold in East Africa, designed for large commercial farms, are too expensive for small-scale farmers and generally do not meet their needs.

Over the last four years, this team has collaborated with Kenyan and Tanzanian partners in the field to design, prototype, and field-test affordable greenhouses designed for small farmers. The greenhouses cost $200 and can be assembled by two people in two days. Proprietary and technical innovations include modular design, a fastener system, the construction process itself, and the choice of materials used in lieu of glass.

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