GRAND RAPIDS — A group of Grand Valley State University engineering students designed a portable medical system that helps save lives for a hospital in a rural part of the southeastern African country of Malawi.

The solar-powered system was designed to kick on when the hospital loses power in the middle of a surgery.

A media demonstration of the Photovoltaic Emergency Power System for will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 4:30 p.m. in room 204 of the Keller Engineering Labs building on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

Heidi Jiao, an engineering professor who advised the project, said it’s not uncommon for the hospital to lose power. “Sometimes a patient can be lost, and it’s devastating,” she said.

The system is backed up by a battery and is able to provide power for two consecutive days. It’s portable and includes two emergency lights, one surgery suction system and two outlets for charging tablets and phones.

Students worked with Martha Sommers, an American physician who has been working in Malawi for more than 15 years, and her sister Veronica Sommers, an engineer who has worked with Martha in Malawi. Gorby said the team will be training Martha on how to use and set up the system, which was designed to be disassembled in four parts. She will then take it back to Malawi within the next year.

Another group of Grand Valley students created a medical mobile app that provides instructions to help midwives in Malawi and Haiti deliver babies without a doctor present. The app was created based on the book, “A Guide for Midwives,” which was written by Martha’s sister Mary Sommers, a midwife and childbirth educator. The app was created by computing alumnus Olvi Tole, business alumna Kelsey Waldecker, and business students James Villar, Jennifer Mast, Holly Malinowski and Michael Angerbrandt.


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