Two Yale College students hope to launch an Android application this evening that aims to increase vaccination rates in the developing world.
Ruchit Nagar ’15 and Leen van Besien ’14 began working on the app — called Khushi Baby — last semester with two other students for the class “Appropriate Technology for the Developing World.” Khushi Baby uploads the medical informaton of infants onto wearable necklaces that sync with the mobile phones of health workers. The two students, their fellow collaborators and professors interviewed all said the app had the potential to improve health systems in the developing world.
“Khushi Baby is a perfect example of how the classroom can be leveraged to generate solutions to real-world problem,” said mechanical engineering lecturer Joseph Zinter, who co-teaches the course with Bo Hopkins SOM ’86. Zinter added that the course intends for students to work together and utilize inter-disciplinary skills to tackle global challenges such as infant mortality.
Originally, Khushi Baby’s team consisted of four students from diverse academic backgrounds. In addition to Nagar and van Besien, the group included Fedolapo Omiwole ’14 and Teja Padma SOM ’14. Although none of the four had any backgrounds in engineering or programming, van Besien said it was possible that this inexperience was an advantage because it forced the team to pursue a project that would be easier to implement. She said that while other teams were more engineering-heavy and looked to create different platforms, the Khushi Baby team only focused on creating an Android app.
Nagar echoed van Besien’s comments but added that the team’s lack of an engineering or tech experience made the development process “very scary.” Still, because they made the prototype themselves, Nagar said it made it easier for the team when they had to outsource programming to external developers.
Susan Hyde, director of undergraduate studies for global affairs, said she did not know the specifics about either Khushi Baby or the class itself. Still, she said the global affairs major encourages students to look beyond theory and make practical contributions to solving global problems.
Both van Besien and Nagar said the class’s emphasis on brainstorming possible ideas and solutions to existing challenges helped them conceive of the idea behind Khushi Baby.
Jiaao Hou ’17, a programmer and employee of the Student Technology Collaborative, said she is always on the lookout for new projects and more coding experience. She added that it is difficult for programmers to learn about projects and ideas without taking classes such as “Appropriate Technologies” where students are encouraged to design and build on interdisciplinary ideas. Without such classes, Hou said most people would only work on projects with their friends or independently.
Hopkins said the class’s focus on interdisciplinary ideas is reflected in the contrasting interests and talents of the two professors. While Zinter has a deep passion for design and solving technical problems, Hopkins said he is more interested in helping students commercialize their ideas.
Zinter said he is incredibly proud of the Khushi Baby team for developing an idea and building a technology that could save the lives of infants in just 15 weeks.
Both Nagar and van Besien noted that they envisage their technology expanding beyond improving vaccinaton rates and into other aspects of public health.
“I’d like there to be a system where you can easily keep records and customize it to any situation, outside of health records,” van Besien said.
There are currently 12 members of the Khushi Baby team, including Zinter and Hopkins.