EC.710 | Spring 2010 | Undergraduate

D-Lab: Medical Technologies for the Developing World


Course Meeting Times

First Half of Semester

  • Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session
  • Labs: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Spring Break

  • Field trip to Nicaragua

Second Half of Semester

  • Occasional lectures and local field trips during class time
  • Project team work: meeting times determined by teams

Course Goals

  • Learn about the distinctive medical challenges of the developing world
  • Learn to identify medical improvisations in the field
  • Learn hands-on prototyping and medical device design skills
  • Learn how to address safety, regulatory, and ethical challenges in device design

Course Structure

The semester is divided into two halves. The first half of the semester will focus on a survey of global health challenges and accelerated training on five medical device categories:

  1. Drug delivery
  2. Diagnostics
  3. Instrumentation
  4. Vital signs monitoring
  5. Microfluidics

Students explore each device category through instructional lectures and hands-on activities during two-hour lab sessions on Fridays. Students complete weekly lab assignments due the following Friday.

In between the first half and second halves of the semester, during spring break, students will travel to Nicaragua to observe, identify, and report public health and medical challenges that might be effectively addressed by appropriate medical technologies.

Upon returning from Nicaragua, students form teams around needs identified during the spring break trip. Students focus on device design and prototyping during the second half of the semester, advised by expert mentors and course instructors. A final poster and device prototypes will be presented during a capstone poster session at the MIT Museum at the conclusion of the semester.

Course Text

Hilts, Philip J. Rx for Survival: Why We Must Rise to the Global Health Challenge. New York, NY: Penguin, 2007 (reprint). ISBN: 9780143037989.

This text is supplemented by papers and resources listed on the Lectures and Readings and Labs and Readings pages.


Class participation and attendance 20%
Homework assignments 15%
Lab notebooks and assignments 25%
Presentations and design reviews 25%
Final design/prototype 15%


Each week is composed of two lectures and a lab session. Homework is assigned during the first lecture of the week, and due on the first lecture of the following week. Similarly, lab homework is assigned during lab and due one week later at the following lab session.

Part I: Survey of global health challenges and medical device categories
1 Introduction, global health overview Lab 1: Drug delivery Homework 1 due
2 Drug delivery overview
3 Infectious diseases Lab 2: Diagnostics

Homework 2 due

Lab 1 homework due

4 Non-communicable diseases
5 Capturing heart and lung sounds on a mobile phone – guest lecture by Katherine Kuan Lab 3: Instrumentation Lab 2 homework due
6 Advances in telemedicine and patient monitoring
7 Vaccines Lab 4: Vital signs monitoring Lab 3 homework due
8 Arduous Arduino – guest lecture by Paul Hlebowitsh
Week #8: Spring break, Nicaragua trip
Part II: Project design and development
9 User and setting-driven innovations to advance global healthcare – guest lecture by Kris Olson Lab 5: Microfluidics

Homework 3 due

Lab 4 homework due

10 Prototyping of medical devices
11 Neglected tropical diseases Visit to Shriners Hospital for Children, Boston, MA Lab 5 homework due
12 Disabilities in the developing world
13 Project team formation Project team work Lab 6 homework due
14 FDA approvals FDA 510(k) homework due
15 Project brainstorming
16 Visit to MIT laser cutter and 3-D printer  
17 Project team work
18 Project team work  
19 Project team work
20 Project team work Blog/Lab notebook review Sketch model due
21 Project team work  
22 Project team work
23 Role-playing simulation games Final prototype due at MIT Museum at D-Lab Finale
24 Project team work, Sketch model review feedback
25 Project team work No lab
26 Project wrap-up

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2010
Learning Resource Types
Design Assignments with Examples