"The students really did an amazing job of taking very simple, low-cost materials and creating a device their research shows correlates nicely with hematocrit levels in the blood," said Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering education and director of Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). She was the team's co-adviser with Richards-Kortum. "Many of the patients seen in developing world clinics are anemic, and it's a severe health problem. Being able to diagnose it with no power, with a device that's extremely lightweight, is very valuable," she said.
Kerr said the device spins tubes at up to 950 rpm. Results with the push-pump spinner compare favorably to those obtained with the ZIPocrit, a miniature, battery-powered centrifuge used as part of Rice's Lab-in-a-Backpack project. The ZIPocrit spins up to 10,000 rpm and completes its task in four to five minutes.
But the manual Sally Centrifuge, named in honor of a landmark known as the Sallyport on the Rice campus, has other advantages.
First, it requires no electricity -- just a bit of muscle. "We've pumped it for 20 minutes with no problem," Theis said. "Ten minutes is a breeze."
Second, it can spin up to 30 tubes at a time versus the ZIPocrit's maximum of four.
Third, it has proven to be fairly robust. "It's all plastic and pretty durable," Kerr said. "We haven't brought it overseas yet, of course, but we've trekked it back and forth across campus in our backpacks and grocery bags and it's held up fine."
The centrifuge, assembled using plastic lids, cut-up combs, yogurt containers and a hot-glue gun, costs about $30 in parts, including the spinner. The students expect to continue work on the device after their summer treks.
|Contact: David Ruth|