Rose Thompson

Backpacking Hope: Senior Project Sends Life-Saving Care

by Hannah Fair, Student Public Relations Writer

Backpacks and coolers are staples of college life. But combining the two to save lives in developing nations? Welcome to Rose Thompson’s senior capstone project.

For her senior industrial and innovative design capstone project in, Thompson, a 2019 graduate of Cedarville university, discovered a gap in the way immunizations are delivered to third-world nations. She hopes her new system for transporting vaccines will save lives in underserved parts of the world.

— Rose Thompson

Thompson's project is sponsored by Emerson, a large, global automation company that is committed to innovation, with large corporate operations in Columbus, Ohio. Emerson helped Thompson find a technical solution and provided feedback for her ideas.

According to recent data from the World Health Organization, 5.4 million children under the age of 5 die each year due to vaccine-preventable diseases. Most of those deaths occur in developing countries.

Many of these countries lack a power grid, which contributes to the spoilage of vaccines before they arrive at clinics. Vaccines must maintain a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, or roughly 35.6 to 46.4 Fahrenheit. It’s estimated that $100 million is wasted each year due to vaccine loss.

In response to this dilemma, Thompson created a system for storing and transporting vaccines at very low temperatures to maintain their effectiveness before use.

The existing products for transporting vaccines to third-world countries are soft coolers, coolers with ice packs, heavy refrigerators and preservatives. None of these options are effective or lightweight enough to carry to remote locations.

Typically, nurses carry vaccines, as well as syringes, alcohol wipes, gloves and other medical supplies. According to Thompson, most nurses use a standard tote bag that is unstable for the weather and terrain conditions. “The medical personnel who I interviewed said that the current bags are not durable or comfortable for hiking up mountains and crossing streams to the villages,” she said.

Thompson created two products to ensure the safe delivery of vaccines. The first is a cooler system that monitors its temperature and notifies the nurse when it is nearing an unsafe temperature. The nurse can then crank a lever on the cooler, which operates a cooling system, so the temperature is regulated without electricity.

The second product is a backpack with secure pockets designed for each medical supply, which also has enough room for the vaccine cooler, so medical personnel only have to carry one backpack.

“I realized that the lack of safe transport for vaccines is a huge problem,” Thompson shared. “With this project I hope that my solution can be a small piece to the big solution. I also hope that this project will raise awareness so others can be a small piece to the big solution.”