Afghan high school girls robotics team build ventilator prototype

  • Tuesday 21, July 2020 08:38 PM
Sharjah 24 – Reuters: A team of high school girls in Afghanistan's western city of Herat have built a prototype ventilator that they hope will be used in hospitals to help COVID-19 patients breathe easier amid the ongoing pandemic.
It took around three months for 18-year-old Somaya Faruqi and six other teammates of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team to construct the machine from available materials. It is mostly based on a design from a portable ventilator developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but it will cost about $700 to produce, compared to the $20,000 price of a traditional ventilator.

Faruqi, team captain, said she hopes her team's invention will solve Afghanistan's dire shortage of ventilators.

"Most patients with coronavirus die because they cannot breathe. That's why we decided to build a ventilator in Afghanistan because the number of these machines is low in Afghanistan and other countries. We hope that by building this machine, we will be able to use it in hospitals," she said.

As schools in Herat have remained shut since April due to lockdown measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Faruqi and her teammates were afforded extra time to work on the project. They had extra help from experts at institutions such as Harvard University. The project was funded and facilitated by the Digital Citizen Fund, a nonprofit which has founded several digital literacy projects across Afghanistan.

The final design of the ventilator prototype was unveiled at a ceremony on July 13, but still needs to undergo testing before it can be put to use. A Health Ministry spokesman said once the ventilators were approved they would be rolled out in Afghan hospitals and the design shared with the World Health Organisation.

Faruqi and her team have also developed a remote-control UVC robot for disinfecting indoor surfaces.