Incubators for newborn babies are tasked with providing a clean and warm environment for children too small or premature to survive on their own. While the concept sounds rather simple, late-model incubators found in our hospitals are decidedly sophisticated and most require highly specialized parts. Making matters worse, the machines are notoriously high maintenance and cost upwards of $40,000 each. While the problem is bothersome in rich nations, thousands of incubators sit in disrepair -- hopelessly unusable -- in third-world countries.
Dr. Jonathan Rosen from the Boston University School of Management was determined to solve the dilemma. During his travels, Rosen observed that no matter how remote the locale, there always seemed to be a Toyota 4Runner in working order, a realization that resulted in a clever idea. Working with Design That Matters, Rosen decided to start with a 4Runner and "take away all the parts that weren't an incubator." The result was a new automotive part -based incubator that employs car headlamps for heat, auto filters for air purification, and a door alarm to signal emergencies. And that is just for starters. Best of all, the resulting contraption is easily transportable, simple to operate, reliable and only costs about $1,000 per device. While the 4Runner 4Babies incubator won't solve all of the world's problems, the idea is brilliant enough to earn our kudos.
[Source: New York Times, photo by Design that Matters]