Husband-Wife Team Announced As Winners Of Pitt’s ProtoHype Competition

By Aaron Aupperlee
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The ProtoHype competition pairs Pitt researchers and clinicians with members of “TechShop”, a maker space. The Pitt staff submits problems or challenges faced in their work or research to TechShop, which sets out to solve them and develop working prototypes.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A husband-wife team of tinkerers developed a camera that can automatically find a newborn’s forehead and continuously monitor its temperature to guard against hypothermia immediately after birth.

The camera is wireless, operates without ever touching the child’s skin and can be powered with a hand crank, making it ideal for use in developing countries.

Patti and Jerry Woods, both 47 and of Bellevue, won the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translation Science Institute’s inaugural ProtoHype competition for innovations in health care. The couple will receive a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to develop their prototype with Pitt faculty and researchers.

“It was worth all the time and effort that we put into it,” Patti Woods said. “We had a concept, we went outside the box and it actually worked.”

The Woods learned they won the competition at an event Wednesday at TechShop, a maker space in Bakery Square. Another team won a $3,000 prize for developing a device to better drain bodily fluids that build up as a patient recovers from surgery.

The ProtoHype competition paired Pitt researchers and clinicians with members of TechShop. The Pitt staff submitted problems or challenges faced in their work or research to TechShop, which set out to solve them and develop working prototypes, said Dr. John S. Maier, a faculty member at Pitt’s School of Medicine and co-director of the Innovation Core at Pitt’s Clinical and Translation Science Institute.

Pitt faculty submitted eight problems that 11 TechShop teams tackled. Some ideas had multiple TechShop teams working on them. Among the problems posed were monitoring a newborn’s temperature, detecting a heart murmur that could be fatal to a student athlete and designing a prosthetic limb for children that can grow as the child grows.

Dr. Son Duong, who did his residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Dr. Kalyani Vats, of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, submitted the newborn thermometer problem and worked with two other teams.

“The focus here is trying to connect folks in our systems, whether clinicians or researchers, with folks in the community,” Maier said. “They tend to be engineers or tinkers, they tend to be people who work with their hands. You don’t expect someone whose specialty is macrame to develop a thermometer to monitor newborns for hypothermia, but when they do, it’s extraordinary.”

The competition encouraged the Pitt staff to approach its work not just as research but as development, Maier said. The staff built relationships with members at TechShop and received a prototype through the competition.

Maier hopes the competition becomes a regular event.

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