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How might we disinfect COVID wards?

Despite stringent hygiene protocols, hospitals remain a breeding ground for harmful pathogens due to the constant influx of patients, visitors, and the intricate web of high-touch surfaces.

Conventional disinfection methods like UV-C robots and fumigation necessitate clearing entire wards, disrupting patient care and straining already overwhelmed medical staff. The pressing need of the hour was an approach that could continuously sterilize common touchpoints in the presence of patients and healthcare workers, safeguarding their well-being without compromising operational efficiency.

Role and Impact

My key contributions were in concept design, embodiment design as well as in outreach and evangelisation of open source hardware helping us secure funds to grow this product.

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(Illustration by co-contributor: Deepika Gopalakrishnan) : We followed the conventional double diamond for faster iteration and rapid learning. Arriving at the right form and function involved multiple rounds of evaluations through morphological charts, and mash-ups to arrive at the right set of product features. We further validated the need through low-fidelity, medium-fidelity prototypes

Research insights

In March 2020, we conducted interviews with frontline doctors to understand the challenges they were facing and the current methods of sterilization. We also conducted expert interviews with microbiologists to understand the properties of the virus and sterilization.

"We don't have enough PPE for doctors and nurses"
"Need of the hour is to sterilize wards while patients are present in the ward"
"Examination tools are not frequently sterilized"

Iterations

In a quick 3-hour brainstorming session, our team rigorously evaluated numerous ideas using a weighted objective method. We systematically narrowed it down to 3 promising concepts that met our critical criteria: rapid implementation timeline, low production costs, and ease of manufacturing.

Recognising the perspective of frontline medical staff, we presented these concepts to doctors for feedback. Their insights prompted us to merge two of the concepts, creating a hybrid solution that addressed their core needs. We prototyped this version of Sterilo v1, a practical and viable product ready for further development and real-world testing. Throughout this process, we remained laser-focused on delivering an innovative yet pragmatic solution that could be quickly and cost-effectively brought to market while ensuring seamless integration into healthcare settings.

Assembly Instructions for Open Source Hardware
In the spirit of making the innovation accessible across lower economic regions, we made our hardware designs open-source following open source hardware conventions. This was then used by various innovators from Latin america, receiving a wide variety of inputs. We took into consideration requests to make the sterilisation system fabric-based to accomodate sterilisation of various tools and devices within hospitals.

We did another round of iteration based on feedback. Concepts were evaluated using the weighted objective method. We made frugal prototypes to test each of the highest-scoring concepts to arrive at the design of a fabric-based UVC sterilizer for surfaces and objects in hospital wards.

Second round of prototyping by the team
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Impact

Represented India at a live broadcast by Research4tech to reach researchers across 11 Latin American countries.