Katherine Kawecki designs an asthmatic's dream, the Respia.
When Katherine Kawecki was studying industrial design at UNSW, she was given a “capstone project” in her final year – and the result has won her both national and international acclaim.
A capstone project involves students tackling a real-world challenge of their choice and using their skills and capabilities to find a solution to it. It’s effectively a bridge between study and one’s entry into industry.
An industrial design student, Kawecki decided to tackle asthma management. It’s a condition that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide – including Kawecki herself – and one where she believed she could make a real difference.
This week, the 22-year old was named as one of two international runners-up in the prestigious James Dyson Award -- which came with a prize of $9850 -- for her Respia asthma management solution.
“I chose asthma because it’s been under-addressed in terms of product solutions to help manage it,” she said in an interview with Information Age.
“There are a lot of emergency vapour machines which are really great but they are more about preparing for an attack rather than preventing one.
“I wanted my approach to managing asthma to be about preventing an attack and getting behavioural change in how the user listens to their body, how they’re feeling, and then really noticing when they have signs of inflammation so they can manage that and medicate accordingly.”
The result of the year-long project was the Respia, which consists of a bluetooth-enabled smart inhaler, a wearable haptic device that can be concealed under clothing, and docking station that communicates wirelessly with a phone app.
“The wearable device provides live haptic feedback and suggestions to help the user stick to their personal asthma plan,” she said in project notes.
“This adhesive patch sits on the skin similar to a stethoscope and monitors changes in the upper respiratory tract. The patch does this through piezoelectric sensing picking up wheeze frequencies, flux in inspiration/expiration ratio etc.
“The use of algorithms can distinguish between a wheeze and an external noise.”
Kawecki said she has received a lot of feedback about the design from asthmatics wanting to buy it.
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