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All-Girl Robotics Team in Afghanistan Works On Low-Cost Ventilator . . . With Car Parts

Afghan Dreamers team members

Elham Mansori, Florence Poya, Nahida Khajazadeh, and Somaya Farooqi, members of the Afghan Dreamers, are building a mechanized version of a hand-operated ventilator.

Credit: The Digital Citizen Fund

In Afghanistan, a group of teenage girls are trying to build a mechanized, hand-operated ventilator for coronavirus patients, using a design from MIT and parts from old Toyota Corollas.

The team of some dozen girls aged 15 to 17 was formed three years ago by Roya Mahboob, an Afghan tech entrepreneur who heads the Digital Citizen Fund, a group that runs classes for girls in STEM and oversees and funds the team, called "Afghan Dreamers."

To deal with a shortfall of ventilators in the country, the then-governor of Herat presented two doctors, university graduates, local industrialists, and the Afghan Dreamers with a challenge: help mechanize their hand-operated ventilators, also known as bag-valve-masks.

After the meeting, the Afghan Dreamers began looking online for open-source design ventilators. Mahboob and Somaya Farooqi, the 17-year-old team captain, came across a design released by MIT for a low-cost, low-tech ventilator called the MIT E-Vent.

Farooqi says the team had to be ingenious about sourcing parts. They figured out that windshield wiper motors could be finagled into powering a working ventilator. "Most of the material we are using is actually from Toyota Corolla car parts" from nearby secondhand markets, such as a gear box and motor, along with some motorbike parts, Farooqi says.

From NPR
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