Bio-engineering Students Designed ‘Babalung’ Could Save Preemies

When watching a premature baby lying motionless in a clear plastic cradle in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, it is hard to imagine that something so small would have a real shot at survival. Preemies born before 37 weeks of gestation face often don’t survive for a long period. A group of five female bio-engineering undergraduate students has developed an MCU based monitor for premature newborns that can help prevent death due to sleep apnea.

Team Breath Alert – a group of five female bio-engineering undergraduate students named Rachel Alexander, Rachel Gilbert, Jordan Schermerhorn, Bridget Ugoh and Andrea Ulrich estimated that almost half of babies born prematurely have apnea episodes and the caregivers are not able to monitor them in neonatal units. To solve this problem members of Team Breath Alert have designed the Babalung Apnea Monitor. The whole system uses an elastic motion sensor which embedded in a strap surrounding the child’s chest. The expanding and contracting of the strap is interpreted as a sine wave. If the wave stops for 20 seconds, the device attempts to prompt breathing using a micro-controller. If this vibration fails to prompt the child to breathe within 5 seconds, the monitor triggers a flashing bike light hovering above the crib to alert caregivers.

“We thought about an audio alarm, but there’s the risk that a nurse wouldn’t hear it in a large room,” bio-engineering senior Rachel Alexander¬†said to Rice news release. “And an alarm loud enough to hear might damage the baby’s hearing.”

Team Breath Alert is currently doing a research on which frequencies of pulsating light attract the most attention. They are trying to bring the production price down below $25 so that the device could be buy easily and use where current apnea monitors are not present. The team claimed that its system detected every instance of sleep apnea (students held their breath for 20 seconds or more) and not a single false alarm was triggered.

If you want to show your appreciation, you can log on to Dell’s Social Innovation Challenge and vote for the Babalung Apnea Monitor. Remember, the deadline for People’s Choice voting is May 13, 2012.

Source : Rice University


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