Neonatal asphyxia, also known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, is one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality. This condition is due to insufficient oxygenation of the brain and other vital organs during or shortly after birth and leads to major physiological and neurological deficits. While the current standard of care requires the use of hypothermia-inducing cooling devices, many hospitals around the world are unable to afford such equipment. The Neonatal Asphyxia Project (NAP) aims to design a device that applies hypothermia therapy to mitigate the effects of birth asphyxia in neonates born in low-resource communities. We are partnered with the Hasya Newborn Care Centre in Palanpur, Gujarat, India with Dr. Vaibhav Patel and Dr.

Heena Patel to achieve this goal, working with them to create a device using the principles of socially engaged design. With the help of clinical and technical mentors, we have successfully created a low-fidelity prototype and plan to further develop a more effective and affordable prototype for the communities we work with. Additionally, NAP hopes to gain greater visibility by presenting at competitions and conferences, acquiring funds to support the team’s mission, and improving the fidelity of our current prototype.

Project Progress & Impact

The Neonatal Asphyxia Project has made incredible advancements in our project goals, including but not limited to increasing prototype fidelity, participating in selective competitions, and expanding our team. The first goal that our team achieved was the recruitment of new team members. In preparation for the first (major) leadership transition within the past three years, it is quintessential for the NAP to recruit passionate, talented members who are also interested in NAP’s goals. With several senior members of the team graduating next month, NAP has spent the start of each semester recruiting and training new members to retain as much knowledge and skills as possible. We are excited to share that we have successfully recruited nine new members in the 2023-24 school year.

NAP’s second goal was to apply and participate in design competitions to gain visibility for the team in addition to acquiring funding for research and development. To this end, NAP has applied for grants internally to the University of Michigan and is also actively competing in the annual Rice360 Undergraduate Global Health Technologies Design Competition, which features international student teams presenting low-cost technologies designed to address global health challenges in resource-limited communities - a vision that aligns perfectly with the NAP’s mission. Through this competition, the NAP will receive tailored mentorship, gain additional visibility as a project team, and network with potential stakeholders while engaging with other teams.

With regard to increasing prototype fidelity, NAP has manufactured and assembled a new casing for the device prototype. Extensive research has also been done for the implementation of new hardware components, such as a more accurate multi-input temperature sensor and a scaled-up electric cooling system. Newly recruited members were taught to use relevant software, such as SolidWorks to 3D model the case, and were trained in the appropriate fabrication spaces to manufacture the modeled pieces. Research has also begun for the concept selection of a patient contact and user interface.

Throughout this process, NAP has learned several valuable lessons and grown significantly. As we progressed through the school year, NAP’s focus has shifted from a purely technical standpoint to a more holistic development plan accounting for the importance of not only a functional prototype, but also its affordability, scalability, and sustainable methods of integration in resource-limited communities. One key learning was the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and mentorship — we have evolved as we welcomed additional members from diverse backgrounds and expertise. NAP has made an impactful contribution to both the University of Michigan community and those outside of the university; with our active communication with our partners, we are bringing together a community of passionate and skilled professionals to tackle a global health issue.

Future Plans

Moving forward, NAP aims to continue to apply for design competitions to increase project visibility. This could be competing in both national and international competitions and/or attending conferences to bolster our knowledge on designing a more sustainable prototype for our target community. Additionally, NAP hopes to expand its industry network to receive direct mentorship from highly experienced professionals in marketing, design, and product development. With the additional support, we hope to address technical gaps in knowledge and make more sophisticated advances with the device. Lastly, NAP is working closely with our clinical mentor, Dr. Mousumi Banerjee, to plan a long-term research study on the impact of our device in use. Through this, NAP will not only gain visibility but will contribute to the data pool of medical devices aimed at treating neonatal asphyxia.

Budget Summary

The majority of our funds thus far have gone into supporting our prototyping team in acquiring the necessary materials and parts to fabricate the casing for our prototype. Additionally, we have used the funds to support travel and lodging for members participating in the Rice360 Design Competition in April, as well as for subsidized merchandise for our members.


Through the Barger Leader Institute and the Social Transformation Fellowship, NAP has gained many invaluable skills, connections, and a loving community. As we reflect upon our experiences, we look especially at the time spent in the classroom where we actively interacted with other teams to provide feedback and resources. We want to use this space to sincerely thank Fatema Haque and Becky Woolf for their support and help.