A pair of third-year University of Ottawa students were named the winners of this year’s Makerspace Challenge earlier this week.
By Stephen Karmazyn
The challenge was to build an affordable oximeter – a device that monitors the oxygen saturation of a patient’s blood – and Kristina Djukic and Justin McLeod’s device was selected for two key reasons.
The winning oximeter was the most affordable, least technically sophisticated and easiest to build, which helped with its selection, according to Dr. Tarek Loubani, an emergency room physician from London who inspired the challenge through his work building affordable medical devices for the war-torn Gaza Strip.
The project, which used 3D printing technology, cost $15 to manufacture – $10 below the target price for the competition – and was the easiest to deploy in Gaza.
“We kept everything nice and simple,” Mr. McLeod said of his pulse oximeter.
Now the product must be tested and approved by Health Canada before being deployed to Gaza. The timeline on the implementation of the product is currently six months.
“It’s hard to justify not putting it there (right now),” Dr. Loubani said. He also congratulated the other designs in the competition, saying they were all “so good.”
As with his other projects, like his initial building of stethoscopes for Gaza, the London, Ontario doctor hopes that this pulse oximeter will see use across the globe.
“(When I was approached by people interested in using the stethoscope in Mexico), I said ‘sure man!’ go ahead and make it. Do whatever you want.” Dr. Loubani hopes that the oximeter will follow a similar global trajectory.
“If you can make this in Gaza,” Dr. Loubani said, “you can make it (almost anywhere).”
Mr. Loubani said he was not interested in starting a medical devices company, and in fact, is not interested in devices at all.
“I’m interested in people’s health and what are the barriers. Right now these are the barriers.”
The next projects he hopes to work on include electrocardiograms, prosthetics and hemodialysis.
As for the winners of the competition, the $1,000 prize was secondary to feeling like they were making a difference.
“This really allowed me to use what I learned here at the University of Ottawa in a device that could potentially save lives,” said Ms. Djukic, “which is pretty awesome.”