MOM Incubator wins 2014 James Dyson Award

Loughborough University student invented an inflatable incubator for infants in refugee camps and developing nations.

MOM, the incubator invented by James Roberts from Loughborough University, has won the James Dyson Award for 2014. The award is designed to find projects that have a significant and practical purpose, are commercially viable and demonstrate sustainable thinking. The short version of the award brief asks entrants to “design something that solves a problem.”

Roberts watched a BBC documentary about Syrian refugees that explained how premature births and deaths are exacerbated by war and armed conflict. Upon further research he found that around 150,000 births happen each year in refugee camps, and 27,500 children per year will die from lack of proper incubation.

The project followed the development process like any engineering project would – research into currently available methods was done first. Commercial incubators are expensive and very large, making transport to the places that need the devices difficult.

Research told Roberts that the requirements for an incubator were a stable heat environment, humidity and a jaundice light. Finding more information about the refugee camps themselves told him that energy availability was a constant problem.

James invented an inflatable incubator that can be collapsed and placed into current care packages for easy delivery and transport. He used reliable and low consumption electronic components that can last over twenty four hours without a direct grid power source, using any available power.

A simple control system allows for easy operation of the incubator and the inflatable material is a good insulator and easy to wipe down for sterilization after use. The transparent material used give medical staff and family easy visibility to the baby at all times.

James Roberts has developed a great product and is currently working to find charities and investors interested in bringing his ideas to widespread use. My broad definition of engineering as ‘making the world a better place’ is definitely being served here, and hopefully the MOM incubator can find universal acclaim.