EMSI engineers COVID-19 response

Student Experience by Honoris staff writer

Three teams design cutting-edge medical inventions to fight the pandemic

Three healthcare innovations from École Marocaine des Sciences de l’Ingénieur (EMSI) have been selected in pan-African hackathon Marocovid 19, which brought students, start-ups, entrepreneurs, professors and engineers together to help in the fight against Covid-19. There were 10 winners in total, all of which will be virtually incubated by Hack & Pitch and Start-up La Factory – leading incubators in Morocco that accelerate innovation by supporting collaboration between tech start-ups and corporates.

Winners from the three EMSI teams tell their story.

Abdelali Agouzoul

4th Year Student in Ingénierie Automatismes et Informatique Industrielle at EMSI

‘African Saviour’ uses drones to deploy nasal swabs and other coronavirus diagnostic kit to medics across remote rural areas. The diagnostic pack carried by the drone will include a hydroalcoholic gel and gloves, both of which are single use. When the drone returns, it will only have to carry the sample, which will be in a sterilised bag, and the drone will have to go through a disinfection point as soon as it returns.

Why did you decide to participate in the hackathon?

We are young engineering students, ambitious, thirsty for challenges, and very interested in innovation and technology. We had never participated in such an event before; we were going to participate in another hackathon in early March but that was postponed given the health crisis we are experiencing. We already had this idea in mind and we thought it was an opportunity to present it.

How did you come up with your idea?

We wanted to use drones to transport medicines and emergency organs safely and quickly. Given the current situation we restructured our vision to help overcome this crisis. Knowing that the spread is through direct contact between humans, drones could be a means of screening that would be safer. It would prevent the spread of the virus via people who make the journey from their home to a specialised centre, as well as protect the medical corps that normally handle nasal swabs.

Was it difficult to formalise your project remotely?

Fortunately for us, we had started our research well before the containment, and thanks to the commitment of our school, EMSI, in the supervision and follow-up of our idea, we were able to make good progress on the project despite the distance.

What did you learn from this virtual hackathon?

During the competition, we were surrounded by coaches and mentors from different disciplines, including doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs. The hackathon included specific workshops, such as “Design Thinking,” “IoT and Industry 4.0,” and “The Art of Pitcher”, and these allowed us to improve, to fill our gaps, and above all to clarify the problem so that we could then establish a clear and precise action plan to achieve our objectives.

What were the main challenges in designing your idea?

The choice of materials was very delicate, as we needed adequate equipment to achieve our objectives without complications. In addition to this the legislation regarding drones is quite strict in Morocco.

Why did you decide to use drones in your invention?

Drones, like birds, can achieve their goal by using orthodromy, which allows us to reach our destination more quickly and is a critical feature when moving organs, for example. They can also reach places where access is normally difficult, such as rural areas.

To what extent is the system self-managed – can drones be programmed to travel to a particular address and then return to the hospital/medical centre?

The system will be equipped with two modes of operation. The automatic mode will allow the drone to reach a specific address transmitted through the application, and, after completing its mission, it will return to its starting point. The manual mode allows the drone to be manipulated via a radio remote control, with the person manipulating it in the place of a pilot.

How do you feel knowing that your invention will come true?

We are very proud of our work. We would like to help humanity, and nothing will make us more happy than seeing our idea come to fruition.

Ahmed Reda Zougar

4th Year Student in Ingénierie Automatismes et Informatique Industrielle at EMSI

The ‘Digital System Medical Respiratory’ invention communicates a patient’s vital signs and medical needs in real-time through a digital platform that connects monitoring hardware, such as air pressure regulation, to communicate a patient’s status to a relevant healthcare professional to avoid any kind of direct contact for monitoring.

Why did you decide to participate in the hackathon?

I wanted to put what I’ve learned in school to use in helping find solutions for this epidemic that has taken the world by surprise.

How did you come up with your idea?

Ventilators are very important for patients in dangerous conditions, but there is a lack of these machines in our country and across the world. We decided to work on a low-cost system that would help with availability problems.

Was it difficult to formalise your project remotely?

The biggest problem we’ve had is finding the necessary parts for building the product, since we can’t just go out and shop for them. We didn’t have any specific issues with the other phases of the project.

What did you learn from this virtual hackathon?

I’d say the most valuable lesson is knowing that storytelling is the most important asset. Without great marketing skills, any project, no matter how well it’s made, is doomed to fail.

Have you created your project alone or as a team?

I worked as part of a team comprised mostly of classmates. We were always open to ideas and made sure to include everyone to get the best output possible.

What were the main challenges in designing your idea?

Along with struggling to find the right parts, another big challenge was getting to a point where everyone had a working understanding the respiratory system. Also getting measurement right, since the slightest mistake would mean putting human lives at risk.

How does the ventilator system work?

The idea basically boils down to a respiratory system that can be remotely controlled with a connected application by a healthcare specialist without requiring an on-site intervention. Our product would not need any special training since it’s modelled on industry standards. Anyone familiar with a ventilator would be able to get started right away without the exorbitant cost needed for other systems on the market.

How do you feel knowing that your invention will come true?

I was really happy to hear that. But I would be more happy when our concept materialises into a real product and starts getting used to help people. I’m proud that our team put out a concept for a system that would rival those created by engineers with decades of experience. So for that I’d like to thank Mr Tabaa for walking us through the different steps of the project.

Do you think your project has application beyond the Covid-19 crisis?

Yes, the necessity for such a system extends beyond the ongoing pandemic, and has the added benefit of being very cheap to make.

Mariam Chehmat

Laureate of the EMSI promotion 2019

The ‘Moroccan Electronic Prescription (MeP)’ smartphone platform allows a doctor to create and validate prescriptions that a patient can then collect from the pharmacy using a unique QR code. This reduces doctor–patient contact, potentially saving the lives of much-needed medics on the front line. 

Why did you decide to participate in the hackathon?

This unprecedented hackathon to offer sustainable solutions for this period of crisis was a call to all to think of new and adapted solutions. It was our duty as responsible citizens to act and not be passive.

Was it difficult to formalise your project remotely?

It wasn’t easy working with people we couldn’t meet, but we spent almost 48 hours talking, designing and working together remotely. We loved it – active minds all gathered for good and focused on a real challenge. It’s an unforgettable experience.

What did you learn from this virtual hackathon?

Whatever the situation and the circumstance, I must not let go. I chose engineering as it can solve real problems of our society.

Have you created your project alone or as a team?

My project was carried out in a team with a student engineer who took on the mission of a designer. I am project carrier and computer and network engineer.

Can you please give a brief description of how your system will be used.

The Moroccan Electronic Prescription (MeP) mobile application is a shareable platform that will allow a doctor to create prescriptions that will be visible to the pharmacy. MeP digitises the prescription and sends it to a pharmacy, where a patient, who is identified by a QR code, can collect the drugs. It is an ideal system for pandemics and critical situations. MeP also ensures the security of medical data and the traceability and digital historisation of prescriptions for patient follow-up.

Who would be the best doctors and patients to use your system?

The system can be used by any patients, doctors of different specialties, and pharmacists who would benefit from eliminating paper prescriptions.