FirstHug Neonatal Warming System (Preventive Care for Neonatal Hypothermia)


Member profile details

Membership level
2014-2015 Team
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Team Name
Project Title
FirstHug Neonatal Warming System (Preventive Care for Neonatal Hypothermia)
Design Challenge
Whether a neonate is properly warmed immediately after delivery could literally mean the difference between life and death for the young life. If not provided with immediate and proper care, a neonate’s body temperature can fall by as much as 4° Celsius the first two hours of life. Without sustained care, the neonate will suffer even greater temperature drops in subsequent hours. In low-resource settings, over 50% of neonates show signs of potentially fatal hypothermia upon admittance to the NICU. Our challenge is to design an optimized warming system to keep neonates at a healthy temperature from the moment of birth until entry into the NICU or postnatal ward, in order to minimize the incidence of neonatal hypothermia.
Design Summary
FirstHug aims to develop an optimized warming system to prevent neonatal hypothermia at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Malawi. Our design goals include creating an intuitive system that incorporates a simple but effective technology to minimize hypothermia, as well as promoting this system effectively in Malawi using a poster, given cultural, social, and educational considerations. This is done to maximize the system's utilization and efficacy. Our approach to this task is two-pronged: first we evaluated current warming technologies and systems, and second, we integrated this data to create an optimized system which we then refined for implementation in Malawi. We have developed a functional neonatal thermoregulatory model for use in evaluating warming technologies, which accurately models a neonate's heat loss. We created a prototype of our optimized system, which we have refined over the course of the second semester. We also conducted IRB-based surveys to receive feedback on our system from physicians and other OEDK staff who are familiar with QECH. We received positive feedback that our system is simple, effective, and medically accurate, all of which align with our design challenge and goals. We have also developed a simple, informative chart for tracking the neonate's vitals over time, with clear indicators that will tell the staff when the neonate's temperature is hypo- or hyper-thermic so that the neonate can be immediately transported to the NICU. This chart will travel with the baby in order to improve communication between the maternity ward and the NICU about the baby's vitals and medical history. We presented our work at the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Engineering Design Showcase. Since then, we have finalized our system by further reducing costs and putting together a presentation to demonstrate our system to physicians in Malawi. We also transferred all of our materials, our thermoregulatory model, and our prototype system to the Rice BTB department via Kelley Maynard, so that future BTB teams and interns can continue developing on this project.

Date Last Updated: 5/3/2015
Date Updated
Sunday, May 03, 2015
Steven Byrnes
Sponsor Logo
  • Global Health Technologies
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Maria Oden, PhD
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • BIOE
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Kelley Maynard

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
School of Engineering First Place - Best Group Project Award at Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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