St. Clair Tackles Healthcare Issues With A Funnel And An App

Inventor Tim Postma
Inventor Tim Postma

Tim Postma’s Christmas gift to the world is his ingenuity.

The 22-year-old student in St. Clair’s Community Integration Through Cooperative Education program has invented a medical/physical mobility device, that he now offers free-of-charge to anyone who has a three-dimensional (3-D) printer to process his downloadable manufacturing program.

Tim’s description of his device on the Pinshape webpage (https://pinshape.com/items/39734-3d-printed-wristband-funnel) – which includes the downloadable program to print his invention – explains:

“The wrist band funnel is part of Wrist Funnel Corp.

“It’s a speciality funnel, with a wrist strap, for both ease of use and better access for pouring drinks, for people with neurological damage to their hands - for example, people with strokes, spinal injuries, ALS or other motor skill impairments to the hands … But feel free to use this to help anyone who needs one. After all, this is the inventor’s contribution to societies worldwide.”

Strapped securely to the handle, the funnel allows for a steady, spill-free handling of liquids by those afflicted by immobility, tremors, spasms or hand/eye-coordination limitations.

The funnel section of the device is fairly conventional. The challenge was to add a sturdy structure to the cone-shape that would allow a wrist-strap to be securely and comfortably attached.

Tim quickly overcame that challenge. The whole design came to him in brainstorm fashion in about an hour, and his 3-D printer churned out the funnel in about three-and-half hours.

In part, he was spurred to create the funnel by the “3D Print Innovative Devices for Accessible Healthcare” design contest, launched by the University of Windsor/St. Clair College EPICentre for Entrepreneurship earlier this year.

 

Healthcare Printing Contest

EPICentre noted that it has “partnered with Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare to deliver Print for Healthcare. This competition invites students and community members to form multidisciplinary teams to research and identify a need for a new or improved device that would benefit any healthcare field. Teams will then design, print, and develop a business plan for their device.” (More info about that at http://www.epicentreuwindsor.ca/print-for-healthcare/)

He was also, in part, inspired to produce the device in memory of a friend’s late relative who had suffered from ALS. The ALS Society of Canada states that “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, or motor neuron disease) is a disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that we are typically able to move at will.”

“My friend has told me that the funnel would have been very helpful, if it had been available then,” Tim noted.

Postma's Funnel
Postma's funnel, showing the wrist-band attachment structure.

As part of Print-for-Healthcare contest and his overall research, Tim provided prototypes of his funnel to Hotel Dieu Hospital. Pat Begin, an Occupational Therapist (OT) at that institution, said, “OTs found this would be most useful for a different patient population, especially for people who’ve had serious injuries, that can no longer use their hands (such as spinal cord injuries, stroke, or any other condition with neurological damage to the muscles of the hand)."

UPDATE: In January of 2018, about three week after this story was published, Tim's funnel design won one of the major prizes of the "3D Print Innovative Devices for Accessible Healthcare" contest, earning him a $1,000 award. Although that recognition might actually make his invention marketable, he continues to offer it free-for-download to anyone who wants to manufacture one with a 3D printer.

Tim, a Brennan High School graduate, has been dabbling in 3-D printing technology since 2009, and acquired his own printer in 2015.

He’s an avid advocate of adding 3-D printing to the educational scene …

… And, arising from his enquiry, The Scene learned from St. Clair Vice-President Academic Waseem Habash that the college has now ordered its first 3-D printer, which should arrive some time in the New Year.

Initially, the device will probably be based in the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing, and will be used for research-and-development projects housed in that building (including student involvement).

Eventually, Habash said, when faculty members throughout the college are fully familiarized with the technology, 3-D printing may be added as a curriculum compontent to a substantial number of programs … And, presumably, as that educational expansion occurs, more printers will be obtained.

AND HOSPITAL FOOD GOING “HIGH TECH” TOO

Material from the EPICentre

MedMeals

Hospital food is famously awful, and there is a certain negative stigma attached to food being served to patients. In fact, 29 percent of patients leave the hospital malnourished — a staggering number!

Simon Lizotte, Liam Goodwin and Carmen Kerim, students in the Mobile Application Development program at St. Clair College, are currently in the process of developing a solution to this hospital food problem with the hope of not only changing people’s perceptions about hospital food, but, more importantly, to give patients access to healthier options.

The project began at “Hacking Health Windsor-Detroit”, a collaborative event that engages key groups of stakeholders to create solutions to healthcare challenges.

Liam and Carmen decided they wanted to participate in the event. They ended up meeting Simon, formed a group and came up with this idea regarding patient care, to refine the way patients order food at the hospital.

Ultimately, their idea landed them first prize at Hacking Health, as well as the People’s Choice award. This included entry into EPICentre’s Founders Program, where students and alumni are paid to work on their start-up over the course of a semester.

Simon, Liam and Carmen eventually came up with a name for their new venture: MedMeals.

They started building the first prototype of their application over the summer months and, by the time they began the EPIC Fall Founders program in September, they were already working on a second prototype which incorporated feedback from potential users and stakeholders.

MedMeals is now focused on developing a fully functional application for patients and hospitals that will help facilitate and expedite the food-ordering process in a hospital setting or long-term care facility.

Currently, patients either don’t get a choice regarding what they can eat or they must order from a specific menu. With this new application, however, patients will now be able to order from a variety of different options based on their specific medical histories.

This would solve a number of current issues. First, this new process is guaranteed to reduce food waste. If patients don’t have an option regarding what they can order, they might not eat the food and it would go to waste. Further, the application would also ensure that patients are not leaving the hospital malnourished.

Another value provided by the application is with regards to providing nutritional information that the hospital normally would not be able to provide in full detail. This allows the application to act as a teaching tool, to encourage patients to make healthier food choices based on the their medical conditions. The platform will also help free up time for medical professionals because patients will be able to order the food themselves without assistance.

Currently, the MedMeals team is finishing up its latest prototype, and plans on doing beta testing with smaller, local healthcare facilities in order to obtain feedback and make improvements.