TAMPA, Fla. — Three recent graduates on a medical engineering team from the University of South Florida came up big in a national competition for their device drawing inspiration during the COVID-19 crisis.
Carolyna Yamamoto Alves Pinto, Abby Blocker, and Jacob Yarinsky, recent USF alums in the Medical Engineering program, banded together for their senior capstone project.
“At the beginning of the semester when we were talking with our mentors for Moffit, they presented to us the problem which was the lack of ventilators in many hospitals around the country, but also like around the world. And it was kind of like we need to solve the problem, so go and find a solution to it,” said Yamamoto Alves Pinto.
The team came up with a device called the Eucovent that allows multiple patients to be treated with a single ventilator, addressing some safety concerns with a lower cost solution. Yamamoto Alves Pinto described how it works in a video they submitted for their competition.
“Unlike existing solutions that try to share the same breath between two patients, this device allows for the ventilator to alternate the breaths being delivered, giving the patients individualized ventilation based on their lung compliance and their needs,” said Yamamoto Alves Pinto.
A full year of hard work paid off: the team won the Steven H. Krosnick Prize and first place from the National Institutes of Health’s NIBIB’s annual Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge, earning a $20,000 award.
Blocker explained the pandemic sparked an interest in designing something that would help in areas like patient overflow in ICUs.
“Going about it throughout the year, we were definitely focused on COVID, but really the device is not limited to just that,” said Blocker. “It can help with shortages in rural areas and things like that or during disasters like Katrina or in like military settings.”
Though these students have since graduated, they say another group of students is going to keep working on the device, a hope that one day its true impact could become a reality.
“I really think being recognized by the NIH and the NIBIB, it kind of pushes us in the back just a little bit more to say that, seeing it in a hospital is actually possible,” said Yarinsky. “There are some more steps to go, but the potential is there. The impact is pretty clear.”