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Fort Wayne Key Club builds vaccine monitoring system

Jun 01, 2018

New Tech HS Key Club Eliminate 3Students at a Fort Wayne, Indiana high school have built technology that could save lives of mothers and babies in the most remote areas of the world. 

Members of the Key Club at New Tech Academy built a vaccine monitoring system that measures the temperature of tetanus vaccine vials that are transported inside portable coolers over rivers, across valleys and through other rough terrains. The monitoring system transmits data about the vaccine’s temperature through cellular networks to the cloud where it can be continually monitored and act as a decision-support tool. It can be challenging to know what the temperature of the vaccine is while it is being transported, particularly in resource-deprived settings. Continually monitoring the temperature allows aid workers to determine their speed, set milestones for their travel and support successful missions.

"This technology will help aid workers deliver life-saving vaccines before it is too late," said Lance Incitti, a member of the Kiwanis International Board of Trustees and former president of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. He journeyed to Haiti in 2014 to review vaccination efforts for The Eliminate Project, the joint effort between Kiwanis and UNICEF to rid the world of maternal and neonatal tetanus. "Constant monitoring takes the guesswork out of the process."

New Tech HS Key Club Eliminate 1

The endeavor began as a graduate-course project for Tom Castonzo, director of information technology for Kiwanis International. What started at Purdue University progressed to a service project of the New Tech Academy Key Club. Two Purdue classmates, Eric Toy, a New Tech teacher, and Tyler Sullivan, collaborated with Castonzo on the project.

"When Mr. Toy told us about the challenges of getting life-saving vaccine to people in undeveloped parts of Haiti, we started thinking about how we could solve the problem," said New Tech Academy Key Club President Mu Paw. "We took Mr. Toy's and Mr. Castonzo's research to the next step."

The New Tech Academy Key Club, which has 25 student members, spent hours developing and testing the system under the guidance of Castonzo, Toy and New Tech Academy Key Club's Kiwanis Advisor Kevin Warren. The temperature sensor is about the circumference of a straw and about an inch long. The Key Club members also researched the limitations and solutions to using it in the 15 countries where maternal and neonatal tetanus is killing a mother or baby every 15 minutes. The device costs about US$65 to build. Kiwanis International, the parent organization of Key Club, has applied for a patent on the device.

"The students drove this project," said Castonzo. "Eric, Tyler and I came up with the concept in our graduate class, but they're the ones who made it into reality."