The Cooper-Hewitt announced the winners of the National Design Awards this morning. The NDA, which is in its 13th year, typically recognizes finalists in each category, but this year Cooper-Hewitt is doing away with finalists to keep the focus solely on the work of the winners.
Out of thousands of nominees the NDA has recognized some phenomenal work this year, especially in the Corporate and Institutional Achievement category, which was awarded to Design that Matters, a "nonprofit design company that partners with social entrepreneurs to design products that address basic needs in developing countries." Some of their projects include a projector for nighttime adult literacy education in Africa, a low-cost neonatal incubator that uses spare car parts and a phototherapy device for treating newborn jaundice in Vietnam.
NeoNurture, also known as the "Car Parts" Incubator, has received a lot of attention in recent years. You might have seen it on display at Cooper-Hewitt's "Why Design Now?" exhibition as part of the National Design Triennial. It successfully addresses several needs in developing and rural countries, namely the lack of training to properly use and care for expensive medical equipment. In their research, Design that Matters found that "up to 98% of donated medical equipment in developing countries is broken within five years." They also found one hospital in rural Nepal that "hadn't changed the filters in their incubators in over five years, when filters are meant to be changed every six months."
It's not so much that the parts are expensive to replace, but that not many people know how to repair them. However, Design that Matters found that the one thing that does tend to get fixed everywhere in the world is cars, so they designed an incubator that someone who knew how to repair a car could fix just as easily.
"NeoNurture takes advantage of an abundant local resource in developing countries: car parts and the knowledge of auto technicians. This incubator leverages the existing supply chain of the auto industry and the technical understanding of local car mechanics. Among other components, it uses sealed-beam headlights as a heating element, a dashboard fan for convective heat circulation, signal lights and a door chime serve as alarms, and a motorcycle battery and car cigarette lighter provide backup power during incubator transport and power outages."