MIT IIH Nicaragua

MEDIK Focus Group in Esteli by Anna Young
September 1, 2009, 7:16 pm
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While preparing to teach a semester-course on Innovations in Appropriate Biomedical Technology in Nicaragua this fall, we have had a chance to further analyze some of the lessons learned from the focus group in Esteli.

The previous post describes our ideas for overcoming the challenges of social construct and professional hierarchy within the class room while teaching the MEDIK (Medical Education & Design Invention Kit) modules. Along with brainstorming about ways to balance the professional differences of participants through class structure, we have also thought through ways to design and present the MEDIK exercises to increase participation of all of the students.

Within the drug delivery kit, the most well recieved exercises were the bike-pump-powered nebulizer and the inhaler modeled after a toy helicopter motor. With both of these exercises students were able to grasp the function of the inhaler and nebulizer and replicate those using material provided.

Bike Pedal Nebulizer

Nursing students and professionals making a nebulizer powered by a bike pump.


Student finalizing the inhaler prototype.

Another observation from Esteli is the importance of finding an optimal group number for the participants. With more than 7-8 students the exercises became a bit chaotic and the more timid participants avoided participation by watching the participants with the stronger, dominant personalities. For example, when we asked the participants to construct the function of an auto-disable syringe in teams of  2, only one of the teams was actively constructing while the other three teams watched in confusion. This may also be a reflection of how the exercise was presented, as well as the hierarchial differences between nursing students and professionals.

Overall, the students really enjoyed the workshop, we even recruited some potential students for the Innovation course at CIES this fall! The focus groups were an excellent opportunity to introduce the medical community in Esteli to the art of innovating through the MEDIK modules and also for our team to continue to learn about the challenges we will face in the classroom and how to  improve the design of the MEDIK exercises.


IIH Nicaragua – A Day in the Life of our Devices by littledeviceslabmit
August 13, 2009, 12:22 am
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This video was originally shared on by DLab with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Second Focus Group by littledeviceslabmit
August 13, 2009, 12:19 am
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Saturday, we had another round of focus groups in Esteli, which a small city about 2 hours north of Managua. It’s home to a nursing school and a major hub of CARE’s health care projects. The reaction to the kits was positive, but there was more stratification among ranks (student nurses, nurses, teacher nurses, med students, doctors, MIT students, MIT wannabe students). Nicaragua like most of Latin America respects rank and age, which can lead to some interesting group dynamics. In such a scenario, a professor of nursing looks at the diagnostic kit, says a 12-syllable word like procalcitonina or gonadotropina coriónica humana and the rest of the classroom kneels in awe. The reality is that they don’t really why the procalcitonina does what it does, so they are not prone to hacking it. The students don’t know any better and some of them seem keen on taking a second look at the problem. We are coming up with ideas on how to level conversation:

  • Everyone goes by their first name
  • We can get T-shirts for people
  • Active re-mixing—people are shy here. It’s easy for a dominant personality to have all the fun for themselves during an exercise
  • Separate them by age cohort

Lisa and Anna conducted the drug delivery focus group and they had a different set of experiences that will be covered later.

First Public Showing of the Kits! by littledeviceslabmit
August 6, 2009, 2:08 am
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The IADB came to Managua to visit our project and promote their initiative on People with Disabilities. Having a smart and dedicated team is worth its weight in laser cutters. Lisa, Anna and Phil started the week taking charge of every little detail, drawing an even bigger picture for the project each day of the week.

It was a rough week. The conference deadline and the attention were stressful. On top of that, the team had to deal with power failures for two days straight, which left us without AC (one of the basic elements of life down here). Our Fedex package got delayed in customs, we had to invent a things on the fly, Jose kept breaking every piece of electronics he touched. The lab is very much in the spirit of the lab at home: THINGS ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE.

It’s actually organized into different modules, but until Thursday night, it looked was just technology potpourri sprinkled among 6 tables. By Friday, we had it well organized into a sensible set of 3 distinct kits with specific exercises that visitors could practice on.

Anna, Phil and Lisa outdid themselves. You can’t buy the level of interest and dedication that results in 3 people producing a toy table that doubles as a nebulizer, a teddy bear that takes your oxygen saturation, an array of puzzle pieces that produce an array of diagnostic combinations depending on how you put them together, and a branding and marketing campaign that would make Madison jealous. Even the IV tubes had IIH logos.

Pulse Oximeter Dog

So when Friday finally came around, a tired, bleary eyed posse of IIHers showed the our partners, visitors and the press an array of technologies that starting to reflect our vision of appropriate medical technology tools.   I will still keep on breaking things, losing things, and missing track of time. My team will still keep fixing them, coming up with new ones, finding them for me, and making sure we keep going.

Nicaragua’s La Prensa covers the IADB’s Inclusive Program for Disabilities by littledeviceslabmit
August 3, 2009, 12:59 am
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La Prensa recently interviewed Carlos Guaipatín, of IADB’s Science and Technology Division on our work in Nicaragua with CIES and their new project on promoting technologies for people with disabilities.

El Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) conoce las cifras y para ayudar a mejorar esta situación en América Latina y el Caribe impulsa la implementación de programas pilotos que mejoren la calidad de vida y la inclusión económica y social de las personas discapacitadas. Nicaragua está en la lista de países a ser beneficiados.

Carlos Guaipatín, funcionario del BID, explicó que para lograr sus objetivos hay dos formas. La primera consiste en un Concurso de Propuestas. Es decir, las empresas, organismos no gubernamentales, universidades o personas en particular elaboran un proyecto que tiene como finalidad el beneficio de las personas con discapacidad y los mejores entran a un concurso.

$10 Medical Simulation by littledeviceslabmit
July 29, 2009, 8:15 pm
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No, it’s not OPERATION, but it take a few cues from it. We simple breadboard circuit to create a basic platform for a medical probe simulator. You can use any time of instrument but we started with a syringe (we’re trying to get a biopsy needle).  Some tin for conductive leads placed in our tissue simulator and some emdedded anatomical structures provide signals to a circuit tied to a webcam that sounds an alarm if a wrong path in the “intervention” has taken place.


Our idea is to let the doctors and healthcare workers decide what type of instrument and procedure they want to simulate. We’re providing the electronic and mechanical tools for it.

Students visit the lab by littledeviceslabmit
July 22, 2009, 5:56 pm
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Helicopter Inhalers

On Thursday we had a group of graduate students visit the lab to get a peek at what we are up to. The crowd was mixed: internists, lab techs, epidemiologists, dentists, and psychologists. They are very eager to understand this notion of “being empowered” to innovate, and we are very interested in finding ways to de-construct the process for them so it’s doable. I explained the diagnostics kits, while Lisa gave them an explanation of our approach to constructing drug delivery devices. The above picture of a psychologist with a helicopter that is used to explain the mechanics of inhalers. For some reason, the helicopter module has been extremely popular. I wish everything else was as simple as a $1 toy bought at Target.

Lisa Shlecht explaining the drug delivery module

Students from CIES