Smith College Answers Call for Ventilators

Smith College Answers Call for Ventilators

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: SmithVent

Product Name: SmithVent

About the Team: The SmithVent team is a group of 30 Smith College engineering alumni and friends who joined together to collaborate on something meaningful that they could contribute to the COVID-19 amelioration efforts. They are currently operating as a virtual team, conducting all of their work remotely, and much of it asynchronously. While having limited time to contribute, they are making fast progress working together.

Location: United States + Canada + Germany

Co-leads: Susannah Howe, Astrid Landeau

Adrienne Horne, Alex Widstrand, Alyssa Tham, Angelica Vargas, Beatrix Dalton, Chelsea Hinds-Charles, Claire Dudek, Dan Lin, Devin Carroll, Eleanor Claire-higgins Ory, Emily Dixon, Eric Jensen, Farida Sabry, Ha Phuong Le, Kalifa Clarke, Katie Wood, Laura Lilienkamp, Mandira Marambe, Naylani Halpern-Wight, Nick Howe, Nora Paul-Schultz, Phoebe DeGroot, Sangye Kazi, Sarah Chu, Shuying Zhen, Taylor Beall, Vivian Nelson, Yuting Ren

Smith College News Article

In a recent Zoom meeting, members of a Smith engineering design team came dressed in their college finery: blue-and gold-sweatshirts, t-shirts and hard hats sporting the Smith logo.

Team members had gathered from locations spanning the globe to mark a milestone: the successful completion of their design for a mechanical ventilator for use during the coronavirus pandemic.

Less than a week later, they had even more reason to celebrate, as they learned that the SmithVent design is one of seven finalists chosen from among more than 200 entries in the CoVent-19 ventilator challenge. The next round will identify a device for rapid manufacture and use on the front lines of the pandemic.

“This has been the best example of any project I’ve ever been involved with showing that many hands make light work,” said Susannah Howe, director of Smith’s Engineering Design Clinic, who put out the call for a Smith team in early April. “You’ve gone above and beyond what I expected with this amazing work, which we now want to share with the world.” The month-long, open-source CoVent-19 competition was launched by a group of anesthesiology residents at Massachusetts General Hospital in partnership with Ximedica medical device company. When Howe—who is on sabbatical this semester—heard about the challenge at the start of April, she immediately reached out to the Smith engineering community. In less than 48 hours, she had a group of 29—including two Smith staff members and a member of the class of 2020—eager to work on designing a ventilator.

Operating on such a tight deadline and at a distance from each other was challenging, said Astrid Landeau ’15, co-leader and project manager for team SmithVent. “But it wasn’t as difficult as I thought because people were so motivated.”

At the Zoom celebration, Landeau shared slides showing how work on the project was broken down into five-day “sprints” and meticulously documented on Google Drive so that team members could easily pick up tasks where others left off.

“Twenty-five days ago, Sprint 1 started and we pretty much didn’t know what a ventilator was,” Landeau reminded the group. “Our medical research team soared into action, asking those hard questions and figuring out what we needed to do.”

From there, the team reviewed design options, settled on a plan for a pneumatic ventilator, and documented the complex system requirements for their toaster oven-sized device. Their submission also included 34 multiple design improvements that could be taken up in a second round of competition.

“It’s not just our collaboration that’s been amazing,” Landeau said. “It’s also our output.”

SmithVent members brought a variety of skills and experiences to the design challenge.

· Shuying Zhen ’19, who is an engineer with GE Renewable Energy in South Carolina, came with programming and 3D printing skills. “SmithVent was the perfect opportunity to reconnect with the community and contribute to a well organized effort to meet the current ventilator shortage,” she said.

· Phoebe DeGroot ’13, a project and technical coordinator for the Center for Research and Robotics at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, championed the team’s complex computer-aided design work.

· Kalifa Clarke ’14, a research and development engineer for a Florida-based medical equipment company, “jumped at the chance” to work on the ventilator project as a way to support frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic.

· Emily Dixon ’15, who teaches math and computer science at the Putney School in Vermont, took on the task of contacting medical researchers to ensure that the team’s design aligned with healthcare needs.

Paying close attention to evolving knowledge about COVID-19 was one of the keys to the team’s success in the first round, Howe said.

“We did a lot of research as a group on the pros and cons of existing ventilators and the needs expressed by the medical community,” she noted. “In COVID situations, it’s not always the case that ventilators have to do all the breathing. But people can also be on them for a long time. We weren’t just trying to make something that works, but something that works for people.”

At the Zoom celebration, team members sent each other virtual sticky notes with messages of gratitude for a challenge well met. Several said they plan to share the SmithVent design with co-workers as a model for how to successfully accomplish a deadline-driven challenge.

For Naylani Halpern-Wright ’15, who is studying for a master’s degree in the Netherlands, being on the team helped her feel connected during a time of unprecedented isolation.

“I have rediscovered what I learned during my Design Clinic experience at Smith: That Smithies are uniquely good at working together and communicating with one another,” she said. “I’m amazed and full of wonder at what we’ve been able to do together.”

1 comment on “Smith College Answers Call for Ventilators

  1. Jenifer Layne-Landeau says:

    A committed and dedicated team effort has produced excellent work
    Team Smith Vent congratulations on a well done project . Hard work always produce the desired results
    Great work guys, blessings

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