Have headlight, will incubate

Hey, have you ever heard of the Red Green show? If you haven't, it was a Canadian television comedy that aired from 1991 to 2006. The title character, a plaid-shirted handyman who believed duct tape could fix just about anything, had a hilarious talent for creating low-tech solutions out of old junk. Want electric windows for your truck? Just use the motor from a kitchen blender. Want to motorize your bicycle? Just attach an old chainsaw, and you're ready to roll.

In one of his zaniest episodes, Red Green built a heart-lung machine out of an old windshield washer pump. Crazy, right?

Well, maybe not. Cimit, a nonprofit consortium of Boston teaching hospitals and engineering schools, is promoting a project that builds baby incubators out of -- you guessed it -- old car parts. Used headlights, for instance, offer a cheap and readily available heat source.

Why would anyone do this? Because in many poor countries, conventional incubators are simply too fragile and too expensive to maintain. A car-part incubator, on the other hand, can be repaired with parts from the local junkyard. And it's a lot cheaper to make: $1000 compared to the $40,000 for conventional incubators.

How important is this project? Cimit claims it could prevent millions of newborn deaths in the developing world.

Red Green would be proud.

For more information and discussion on this project, read the articles here, here, and here. Also, check out the website of Design That Matters, the nonprofit firm that designed the machine.

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