Students develop unique prototype to reduce spread of MRSA

A revolutionary hand-sanitizing prototype developed by students at Heriot-Watt University could significantly reduce the spread of diseases such as MRSA.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology

The anti-microbial liquid dispenser uses the latest in radio frequency identification technology (RF-ID) to track and record how often and when people working in hygiene sensitive environments such as hospitals and restaurants last washed their hands. It works by utilizing a radio frequency module which wirelessly scans a chip carried by the user and is triggered when their hands are passed underneath a touchless soap dispenser. The information on the user's identity, location and time of dispensing is then captured and stored on a linked computer, enabling clear tracking of their hygiene regime.

The prototype was developed by four final-year Mechanical Engineering students through a company-led Engineering Design initiative introduced by Dr Carmen Torres-Sanchez, a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Heriot-Watt. The aim of the initiative was to provide students with practical skills and experience of working in a real business environment, with a view to boosting their employment appeal after graduating.

Working with industry

As part of the initiative, the students carried out in-lab work and also spent time at Aboleo, the at-home hygiene solutions company based in Grangemouth, which signed up with Heriot-Watt to be involved with the initiative.

I am delighted with the results and have already had a promising level of interest in this product which we plan to take to the market later this year.

Mark Zwinderman, Managing Director of Aboleo

Mark Zwinderman, managing director of Aboleo said,"The students far outweighed my expectations in terms of their approach, their maturity and their strong ideas. They were treated like any other employee and each rose to the challenge of meeting set targets and clearly took their project very seriously.

"I am delighted with the results and have already had a promising level of interest in this product which we plan to take to the market later this year. I would have no hesitation in recommending other businesses to come on board with this initiative, take the opportunity to invest in some objective thinking and provide practical experience for the engineering stars of tomorrow."

John Walter, one of the students involved with the project said, "It was such a great opportunity to be a part of this process and to see our design through from inception to completion.

"The experience we gained and the skills we developed through being tasked with investigating all aspects of a product's commercial viability were second to none. I am confident it will stand me and the rest of the team in good stead when it comes to applying for jobs and I have already secured a placement with a major global company off the back of the experiences I gained during this project."

Carmen Torres-Sanchez, the mechanical engineering lecturer responsible for introducing the initiative added, "The students have done both myself and the University proud. Through maximising the opportunities available to them, they achieved a 100% success rate in project completion for the first year of this initiative and I couldn't have asked for more.

"Universities and their students are a hugely untapped resource and I have been delighted with the strong interest shown by businesses looking to become involved with the programme this year. I hope that we will see an even greater return on their time investment as the initiative gathers momentum."

The second year of the initiative launches this week. Over 80 students will take part and a high level of company interest is also expected. The projects will start in September and run for approximately 12 weeks.