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Open Challenges are a mechanism that forms part of EWB Australia’s new Mobilisation program. An Open Challenge focuses on a discrete part of a real-life engineering problem, allowing our network to engage in crowd-sourced ideation, creativity and innovation. The conceptual designs and ideas garnered assist the EWB Engineering and Technology Development teams to view multiple perspectives and solutions, which can then be analysed and honed in a more detailed design phase. 

Due to the open nature of the briefs that underpin these challenges, the projects can be undertaken by volunteers from varying disciplines. They can also be delivered in different formats – from desktop-based or facilitated workshops to hack-a-thons or conceptual design development, providing a platform for rich ideation. 

The first project offered as an Open Challenge in May 2019 was the BirthWatch Graphical Design Challenge. Myanmar has the highest maternal mortality ratio in Southeast Asia and in rural Myanmar, half of all women rely on traditional birth attendants during pregnancy. The ability to reliably and accurately keep time during labour and postpartum has been identified as important in reducing the maternal mortality rate in these regions. 

EWB Australia’s Technology Development team has been developing the BirthWatch to address this need. The Open Challenge asked our network to help support the design of a graphical interface. Through this mechanism, seven unique design ideas* were submitted that presented multiple perspectives, and were considered in selecting the final design to proceed to the next phase of the project – detailed design.

This next phase was led by the BirthWatch mobilisation project team.

The birth of the detailed design team

The detailed design phase of the BirthWatch project involves the design of electronics and software for the device. The team comprises four professionals spread across South Australia and Victoria. Together, they volunteer their time and bring a diverse yet complementary set of skills. All team members except Michael were volunteering with EWB for the first time:

  • Christopher Martin: Chris has a background in software engineering and is helping to implement the embedded software for the BirthWatch.
  • Matthew Stuckey: Matt has a background in UX/UI and is helping to refine the design of the graphical interface and physical device.
  • Michael Stanley: Michael has a background in mechatronics engineering and is helping to design the printed circuit board for the BirthWatch.
  • Michael De Angelis: is EWB’s South Australian Mobilisation Facilitator. He’s the glue that brings everything together.

Prototyping in a pandemic

As a pilot of the new mobilisation model of remote mobilisation, the team has been working well together, delegating tasks and meeting once every week or two to share progress. However, the pandemic has a couple of few spanners in the works.

“One of the challenges faced by the team this year has been managing the long lead times associated with ordering components. With global supply chains disrupted due to COVID-19, shipping times for some items have extended out to months. As a result, the team has had to think of different ways to piece together a prototype,” says Michael De Angelis.

Beyond desktop design

A highlight of the project has been the opportunity to run a workshop in Rakhine State with the project stakeholder. The feedback received from traditional birth attendants was insightful and challenged the team to rethink several elements of the design. The ongoing collaboration and “small wins” from solving the next problem has also been a highlight.

Next steps for BirthWatch

The focus areas for the project going forward are to refine the candidate graphical interface design and build a functional prototype. 

The team also hopes to conduct a second workshop with traditional birth attendants in early 2021 to assess whether the refined design is thought to improve usability.

Interested in mobilising?! Sign up to volunteer here!

* Many thanks to Jacky Cai, Tyson Chan, Annabelle Chambers, Pranjal Choudhury, Amy Evans, Samuel Phan, Janice Quach and Zainab Sayeda who contributed to design concepts during the initial Open Challenge.