Baxter Academy’s Inspiring Team Tackles COVENT-19 Ventilator Challenge

Baxter Academy’s Inspiring Team Tackles COVENT-19 Ventilator Challenge

The CoVent-19 Challenge

The CoVent-19 Challenge is the creation of 13 anesthesiologists and advisors from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston-area who have come together to help overcome the ventilator supply crisis during the devastating the COVID-19 pandemic. As experts in mechanical ventilation and frontline workers fighting COVID-19, they seek to develop low-cost, rapidly manufacturable solutions to support heavily burdened modern medical facilities. CoVent’s goal is to close the gap between our actual resources and those in need around the world.

The CoVent-19 Challenge is an open innovation 12-week Grand Challenge for engineers, innovators, designers, and makers. The Challenge launched on the GrabCAD Challenges platform on April 1, 2020. The general admission round resulted in over 213 entries from 43 countries. Seven teams were invited to participate in the invite-only finalist round (details below). The Baxter Academy team is one of the 7 finalists. The invited teams are receiving access to additional resources for completing their ventilator designs and support in creating functional prototypes, including test kits, test lungs, and testing protocols. The prototypes will be evaluated using a test bed to determine which design provides the best combination of performance, safety, reliability, manufacturability, affordability, and simplicity. The final ventilator designs are due to CoVent on June 21st and will then be evaluated by a team of expert medical and technical panelists.

Team Name: Team Baxter Academy

Product Name: The Baxter Ventilator

About the Team:

The team is based at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science and is composed of teachers, students, and alumni from Baxter Academy who live predominantly in Portland, Maine and across New England.


Jonathan Amory, Team Leader, Engineering Teacher, Baxter Academy

Emmalyn Armstrong

Ben Bernard

Josef Biberstein

Casey Burhoe

Rowan Connor-McCoy

Norris Dale

Zackary DiCelico

Olivia Fowler

James Heffernan

Travis Libsack

Emily Mickool

Nick Nelsonwood

Amanda Palma

Alexander Willette

Jack Yebba

Toby Roy

Bodhi Wilkins

Caden Theriault

Gordon Fream

The Baxter Ventilator was designed specifically to address a shortage of ventilators during a pandemic. The ventilator provides volume control continuous mandatory ventilation (VC-CMV). The tidal volume, respiratory rate, inspiratory to expiratory time (I/E), positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP), and fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO2) can all be set on a touch screen or through manual controls. For the patient’s safety, the maximum Peak Inspiratory Pressure (PIP) will not exceed 40 cm of water. To allow for use in field hospitals, the ventilator can use ambient air, high or low pressure oxygen. When evaluated on a Gaumard HAL S3201 simulator, the prototype met the target criteria and produced results similar to industry-standard ventilators. In a pandemic mass production and supply chains for ventilators may be disrupted, while surges in demand for medical device components and market failures may limit availability. The Baxter Ventilator was therefore designed to be built by individuals with limited skills in distributed locations, as well as at scale. A single person can assemble a ventilator a day with an only an Allen set and crescent wrench following Ikea type assembly instructions and videos. Using readily available industrial COTs components costing only $1,500, the ventilators are not dependent on specialized equipment or parts and are cost-effective. The design features tried and true mechanisms for long life cycles in harsh environments. The Baxter Ventilator also provides a robust platform for expanded capabilities. Additional sensors and controls are currently being added to the Baxter ventilator to allow features like pressure control continuous mandatory ventilation (PC-CMV) and pressure-support ventilation (PSV).

Press Release from Baxter Academy

PORTLAND, Maine — Engineers like to solve problems and there is no exception in Baxter Academy’s engineering teacher Jon Amory. In March, when Amory saw the critical shortage of medical ventilators facing hospitals as they try to help patients afflicted with COVID-19, he started doing research.

“I drew up some schematics, did some calculations and said this is something that I could produce,” Amory said.

Although he was quickly convinced he could build one, he wanted to create an emergency ventilator that even under dire circumstances could be built and used by almost anyone. To do that he decided it needed to be built inexpensively, using over-the-counter parts, and only a few tools. It also had to be simple to build. “Anyone who can put together something from Ikea, has a basic knowledge of putting things together, can build it.”

“It’s one thing to produce one ventilator in one lab, it’s another thing to produce something anyone can build.”

Amory knew that he could put the machine together most efficiently by himself bouncing ideas off his colleagues but he wanted to include his students. He reached out to them about the project. It wasn’t required and there would be no grade. Dozens of students wanted to help.

Maine teacher and students create working ventilator

Working remotely, through virtual meetings a group of about twenty current and former students began to meet and work on the ventilator, including Junior Dennis Slobodzian who has been working on the controls. The ventilator is built on what looks like an iv stand and is controlled with a touch screen pad. It has a motor that controls a belt that goes up and down.

“Basically my job was to make sure that the motor could move in the correct way that we wanted it to,” Slobodzian explained. He needed to work on the device in person but is not leaving his home, so his Amory brought it over to him so he could work on it for a few days.

“I was working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on that thing making sure that it would work for a demo,” Slobodzian said.

“It was definitely a worry that we need to make it the best product that we can to make sure it’s reliable so we don’t harm anyone and once that sunk in it was definitely something that is kind of crazy to think about what these things can do in the real world,” Slobodzian said.

Also working on the controls from his apartment in Cambridge, Mass. is MIT graduate student, Baxter Academy alumni Josef Biberstien. When he heard through the grapevine about Amory’s project he said he had to help “because it’s the right thing to do.”

Biberstein, from Freeport, explained when the patient needs to breathe a piston pushes air into the patient’s lungs. When the patient needs to be allowed time to breathe out, the piston is drawn back.

“We designed this so that if it fails it fails benignly. It’s designed so that it will fail in a way which it doesn’t hurt the patient,” Biberstein explained.

Students have started called the emergency ventilator OSV, it stands for open source ventilator because they intend to share the plans with the world.

“We’re going to put together like an Ikea pamphlet on how you’d assemble this thing,” teacher Jon Amory says. Sophomore Emily Mickool is part of the documentation group that is working on that Ikea-like assembly pamphlet. She says she doesn’t want to see the emergency ventilator have to be used.

Amory started his initial plans and drafts on March 21, by Thursday, April 9, the machine was being tested at the University of New England with a simulation specialist and Dawne- Marie Dunbar, a clinical professor of nursing and the Director of the Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center. The emergency ventilator was hooked up to a patient simulator.

“What was very exciting was the data that we got from the patient simulator very much mimicked what we would see if it was on a real ventilator,” said Dunbar.

Baxter Academy ventilator tested at UNE

“To take parts that are readily available and basically put them together with three tools and to come up with a prototype that worked as well as it did on our patient simulator we were fascinated,” Dunbar explained that UNE is committed to allowing Jon Amory to continue to test his emergency ventilator at their facility.

In less than three weeks, Amory and his students build an emergency ventilator for $1,500 – a medical-grade ventilator costs anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. The machine requires a set of Allen keys and a crescent wrench to put it together. All the parts can be purchased from three different suppliers and all the supplies are in stock.

Amory may have built the emergency ventilator for a worst-case scenario but it has been an amazing learning experience for his students.

“I think where it’s really important is to see that they (students) can put their skills to use right away. That when there’s a crisis or a challenge that comes up, they can rise to the occasion… implement the skills that they’ve learned so far and see themselves being relevant to help find solutions to the problem,” Amory said.

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