Alternative Spring Break Led Engineering Undergraduates Overseas
For some Northeastern students, Spring Break 2023 lacked the usual party trip to Miami. One such group was Innovators for Global Health (IGH), a student organization consisting of undergraduate engineering students. Their Spring Break looked a little different and occurred all the way across the Atlantic: in Ghana, West Africa.
IGH’s mission is to improve global health challenges through innovative medical device designs and global partnerships. The group’s recent business in Ghana mainly focused on building relationships with local medical facilities to determine medical device needs. Throughout the trip, they visited three different medical facilities, including Akyem Dwenase Health Centre and Kyebi Hospital (pictured above).
At each location, IGH spent time discussing the difficulties that health professionals face. Such predicaments include an inability to repair broken devices or obtain support given that many devices are developed and produced overseas. The distance means that there are few local support systems in place to address issues that arise with the devices. IGH strives to help address these challenges using creative design solutions given the constraints that these professionals endure.
In the coming months, IGH will set out to produce designs meant to solve the issues at hand. Depending on the scale of the project, this may mean developing a prototype that they can bring to Ghana next year along with the design instructions. Given flying restrictions, IGH often must get creative with transportation methods.
A past partnership with St Paul’s Hospital in Ethiopia yielded a battery-powered surgical lamp design that is easily repairable, in response to constant power outages at the hospital. The team brought a dismantled prototype on the plane with them and left the design at St. Paul’s, providing them with the knowledge of how to design more if needed.
Following the hospital visits, IGH visited the University of Ghana where they presented a seminar and led an Arduino (microcontroller) workshop with engineering students (pictured). The Ghanaian university students expressed an overwhelming amount of interest in IGH, posing the potential for an IGH chapter at the University of Ghana.
Ultimately, IGH’s time spent in Ghana seeks to develop knowledge exchange and engineering skills on a global scale. While addressing specific needs, IGH also hopes to promote a mindset of engineering solutions for global health issues such as those found in small and rural health clinics.
“We learn from them about how to design better devices towards other contexts,” IGH’s External President Andrew Lopreiato explains, BS’23, mechanical engineering. “And they learn from us more about how you can engineer solutions to these kinds of problems.”
While the purpose of their trip was to meet with health professionals at select locations in Ghana, the IGH group also attended Northeastern’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS). Their trip incidentally coincided with GLS, a fortunate coincidence. IGH’s fruitful Spring Break concluded with a hangout with President Aoun at GLS (pictured).