Reflections from the Global Health Track of the Grand Hack!

The CAMTech Global Health Track of our Grand Hack was a resounding success! Check out some reflections from two of the top placing teams!


Rethinking the boda-boda: applying user-centered design to keep Ugandan women safe

By: Ayan Bhandari, on behalf of team ‘Nyweza’

Developing solutions for global issues is difficult without cultural context. The Grand Hack gave our team a chance to understand the cultures we were designing for by bringing people with experiences and expertise from all over the world, together. Our team’s goal was driven by Lydia Asiimwe’s story and her near death experience from falling off a Ugandan motorcycle taxi (boda-boda).

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We took a user-centric design approach and started by trying to understand everything we could about the people, environment, transportation history, and the culture surrounding Uganda by interviewing Lydia about her experience. This framework allowed us to derive the following concept drivers: (1) women in Uganda are required to sit side saddle as it is deemed inappropriate otherwise (2) they wear long dresses with material that makes it very easy to slide off the motorcycle with the slightest bump (3) When you are carrying anything, you exponentially increase your chance of injury because you have to hold on with one hand, or you are crowding the available space on the motorcycle, decreasing the control the driver has. Our goal became “how do we prevent injury and trauma for women who have to sit side straddle on a boda-bodas in rural Uganda”.

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Next, we started to dive deeper into the culture of the people as well as that of boda-bodas to understand how we could approach solving the problem. We moved from designing something that people could carry around, approaches for manufacturers to make motorcycles safer, and eventually decided that an accessory to current boda-bodas would be the most sustainable and adoptable approach.

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After understanding what type of materials and manufacturing techniques were available in Uganda, we started to sketch and prototype around many different ideas. We landed on the L shaped brace that attaches to the sister bar (a common part on most motorcycles) that gives the side saddle user comfort, storage space, and safety during their ride. This same brace can also rotate into a second “mode” that allows for extra storage space when there isn’t someone sitting side saddle.

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The greatest success of our team is its diversity and experience. We are composed of an Industrial Designer (Ayan Bhandari) Who brought Ximedica’s user-centric design approach, a Biomedical Engineer (Blesson John) who works in Global Health, a public health specialist (Anu Mather) that has worked with implementing programs in different cultures, and a user (Lydia Asiimwe) who has experienced every detail of the problem we were trying to solve. We believe that “Good design is not about what you can do, it’s about what you should do” and we continue to work on Nyweza (Ugandan for “hold on tight”) to create a prototype that we can get onto boda-bodas in Uganda in the near future.

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Innovation in contraception: development of minimally-invasive and permanent methods for sterilisation

By: Dr. Lavanya Kiran, on behalf of team ‘To-U’

I was invited from Bangalore, India by the CAMTech team to attend the MIT Hacking Medicine Grand Hack as a mentor. I accepted this invitation as it would be an experience to meet new people. To my surprise, the Grand Hack truly was GRAND – it was an amazing experience to feel and be among the young intellectual crowd from all over the world, each from varying backgrounds and different cultures.

I was invited to mentor at the Global Health Track, but seeing the energy of the crowd I was so inspired that I couldn’t stop myself from pitching some ideas. I pitched about 7 ideas, mentored 3 teams, and made a lot of new friends from around the world. In the end, our team won the 1st runner up prize for our presentation on “TO-U”. We as a team of 5 people from different backgrounds, including me as their mentor and clinical expert, designed an instrument which is minimally invasive, non hormonal, and a permanent method of sterilisation for women. I’m sure this instrument will definitely make a break through in the field of contraception.

I believe that we have to always be the part of the change to bring change. Such hackathons definitely make changes to society in order to bring all great industries to work under one roof to make changes in technology. I also must not miss this opportunity to express my regards to the organisers in handling a crowd of 400 people so elegantly – I was definitely impressed to see that the coffee was available around the clock and food to the surplus amount to satisfy the huge crowd!

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