Across the world, engineering students are thinking up smart ways to create affordable ventilators for people infected with Covid-19, a virus that infects the lungs. Many countries where the virus is spreading are dealing with a shortage of these machines, which help people breathe. They can cost hospitals tens of thousands of dollars to buy.


Ghana, a country of nearly 30 million, has only around 67 ventilators. Students from Ghana’s College of Engineering at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) teamed up with Michigan Technological University in the U.S. to design homemade ventilators from affordable materials. The design, dubbed ‘IBV and KNUST Ventilators,’ is currently in the prototype stage as the team works to develop a feedback system.

Students and volunteers from Academic City, also in Ghana, are putting their heads together to develop low-cost ventilators, as well. One prototype is powered by a windshield wiper motor, while the other uses a motor-driven piston.

“This invention did not only serve as an opportunity to solve another of society’s challenges during these unusual times, but it gave credence to my call that when Ghanaians are given the right form of education, they rise to the task when the occasion calls for their ingenuity,” the students’ professor Fred McBagonluri told Medium.


In Mexico, students from Universidad de Monterrey assembled ventilators from common materials including PVC. The design costs less than $100 to make. While these home-made designs aren’t exactly an alternative to commercial ones, the students believe they could serve as backups when hospitals run out. “We must be prepared for situations, if not worse, similar to that,” one of the students, Andrés González, told Fronteras Desk. They plan to create a free online manual with instructions so anyone can build one.

United States – Texas

In Houston, Texas, students from Rice University partnered with Metric Technologies to design low-cost ventilators from automated bag valve masks. They used 3D technology and laser-cut parts to develop a $300 prototype in under a week. Free blueprints of the design will be publically available.

“The immediate goal is a device that works well enough to keep noncritical COVID-19 patients stable and frees up larger ventilators for more critical patients,” Amy Kavalewitz, executive director of the engineering department, told KHOU.

Resources for Teachers

During the Covid-19 pandemic, educators are in need of resources to help them transition to an online environment.  Additionally, many parents and guardians are looking for online activities to keep their children educated and entertained. TryEngineering has curated free resources available to support teachers and parents during this unprecedented and challenging time. Visit our website today.