This 'mousetrap' may save lives: Students create mechanism to regulate IV fluids for children

May 15, 2012
The mechanical IV DRIP invented by students at Rice University takes cues from mousetraps for its ability to halt the flow of fluid through an intravenous line without electricity. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Instead of building a better mousetrap, a team of Rice University freshmen took a mousetrap and built a better way to treat dehydration among children in the developing world.

"The goal was to regulate the amount of fluid delivered to children so we could prevent over-hydration and under-hydration," said Melissa Yuan, a member of the IV DRIP (Dehydrated Relief in Pediatrics) team and a major. "It's designed to be used in severely underdeveloped parts of the world, where conditions can be pretty primitive and they may not even have ."

The challenge that sparked the has been mentioned by physicians working in Africa since Rice's Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Maria Oden began traveling there six years ago in search of real-world for students in Rice's Beyond Traditional Borders program. Richards-Kortum is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of and director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies, which oversees Beyond Traditional Borders. Oden is a professor in the practice of engineering education and director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"Many times physicians have mentioned to us that they would like a tool that can better moderate IV-fluid delivery to children, who are often connected to adult IV-bags," Oden said. "In understaffed medical settings, monitoring IV-fluid delivery to patients can be a challenge. At the same time, it is of critical importance that the appropriate amount of fluid is delivered."

The device designed by the IV DRIP team is inexpensive; it costs about $20 to manufacture. It's a mechanical, durable, autonomous and simple-to-operate volume regulator that uses a lever arm with a movable counterweight similar to a physician's scale to incrementally dispense IV fluid.

The system uses the change in torque as an IV bag is drained of fluid to set off a mousetrap-like spring that clamps the IV tube and cuts off the flow of saline solution or other prescribed fluids. Tests have shown the device dispenses fluid within 12 milliliters of the desired volume in increments of 50 milliliters.

Thor Walker attaches a line to the IV DRIP device created by a team of freshman engineering students at Rice University. A counterweight lowers as the IV bag gets lighter and trips a shutoff mechanism at the right level. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

"We knew we needed something simple and reliable, not high-tech or terribly sophisticated," Yuan said. "There's nothing digital about it, nothing electrical or fancy."

The team includes chemical engineering major Paige Horton, bioengineering majors Kamal Shah and Thor Walker and mechanical engineering major Taylor Vaughn. Rebecca Hernandez, a senior in bioengineering, serves as the team's apprentice leader representing the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

Walker emphasized the old-fashioned engineering of the device: "There's nothing revolutionary about this thing. It was matter of determining the right weight for the steel counterweight, which is 812 grams, and calibrating everything else correctly."

The device can be mounted on a wall or attached with clamps to a portable hospital IV pole. The most time-consuming part of assembling the device was calibrating the counterweight and determining the precise spacing of the notches the counterweight falls into and holds as the fluid drains, she said.

"Then the clamp goes off and it folds the tubing in a V-shape, the way you would crimp a garden hose to make the water stop coming out," Walker said.

This summer Shah and Yuan will transport four of their prototypes to Malawi and Lesotho, respectively, to test them under practical field conditions. Malawi, in southeastern Africa, is among the least-developed countries in the world, with a high infant mortality rate and a life expectancy of about 50 years. Some 1.5 million children in developing countries die annually of .

Explore further: Greater safety and security at Europe's train stations

Related Stories

Revolution with a salad spinner (w/ Video)

May 03, 2010

A simple salad spinner will save lives this summer, if everything goes as planned by two Rice University undergraduates. The spinner has been turned, so to speak, into a rudimentary centrifuge that medical ...

Baby Bubbler a breath of fresh air (w/ Video)

Jun 07, 2010

Gently, gently. That's how babies should be handled, and it was the prime consideration when a team of Rice University seniors developed a device that could save babies' lives.

Babalung gets babies breathing again

Apr 13, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Rice University students have developed an inexpensive, battery-powered neonatal monitor for infants that could save many lives in the developing world.

Recommended for you

Greater safety and security at Europe's train stations

20 hours ago

When a suspicious individual fleas on a bus or by train, then things usually get tough for the police. This is because the security systems of the various transportation companies and security services are ...

Fingerprints for freight items

21 hours ago

Security is a top priority in air freight logistics but screening procedures can be very time consuming and costly. Fraunhofer researchers intend to boost efficiency with a new approach to digital logistics, ...

On the way to a safe and secure smart home

21 hours ago

A growing number of household operations can be managed via the Internet. Today's "Smart Home" promises efficient building management. But often the systems are not secure and can only be retrofitted at great ...

DIY glove-based tutor indicates muscle-memory potential

Aug 31, 2014

A senior editor at IEEE Spectrum worked on a DIY project that enabled his 11-year-old son to improve his touch typing by use of a vibrating glove. His son was already "pretty quick on the keyboard," said ...

User comments : 0