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Little Devices Workshop

Little Devices Workshop

Leading up to the We #MakeHealth Fest on August 16th, keynote speaker Jose Gomez-Marquez of the Little Devices Lab @MIT led a small workshop at the University of Michigan’s Design Lab with a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff both local and outside of the University of Michigan.

Gomez-Marquez started the workshop with a discussion of cooking, which is a truly democratized process, as the tools and recipes for cooking are widely available and easily accessible to the average user. He then contrasted the process of cooking with the process of making medical technology, which is a “black box” model that is not transparent about components or processes, and leads to piles of donated medical devices in developing countries that sit in landfills, because the users have no opportunity for local intervention and tinkering.  He talked about the ingenuity of local users around the globe, who have hacked their own dialysis machines, or their own stethoscopes and how the biggest breakthroughs have come from the users. He provided great examples of ingenuity in medical devices, such as spacers for asthma inhaler that are made of paper origami or coke bottles. 

Enlightened by what is possible for anyone to easily and cheaply make, the groups then got to tinkering. One group was equipped with bicycle pumps, tubing, and a splitter to create a dual device nebulizer for treating asthma attacks. 

Another group was provided with pregnancy tests, water and food coloring to better understand how diagnostics work. 

Finally, we discovered the fact that the technology in a Bovie cauterizer is no better than 7-11 flashlight technology.  It was thrilling to see what can be created in just one hour with teams of talented colleagues and simple tools! Together, we #makehealth! 

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