Company-X software developer Mark Nikora has joined the fight against Covid-19 by volunteering his time to a project designing and building low-cost remote control medical ventilators.
Nikora, who joined Company-X in Hamilton in March after 20 years as an information technology lecturer at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), has been volunteering for the charitable Arden Auxiliary Medical Trust since January.
The trust is designing and building sophisticated low-cost medical ventilators to artificially respirate Covid-19 patients or provide oxygen through nasal canula or continuous/bilevel pressure.
Nikora is one of an international team of about 50 working on the project led by co-founders and trustees Alan Thomas in Auckland and Michael Ilewicz in Germany.
The ArdenVent can be operated and controlled from an internet connection anywhere in the world.
The trust is also working on a low cost oxygen concentrator, the ArdenOxyGen to be donated to developing countries expected to struggle with Covid-19 patients for years.
The not-for-profit ventilator and concentrator can be used in tandem.
The trust hopes that its contribution will lead to more data being collected concerning Covid-19 treatment protocol and further mutations.
"I wanted to get involved in a project that made use of my skills and was personally rewarding, so that I could be proud of contributing to something worthwhile," Nikora said.
While New Zealand's team of five million has kept Covid-19 out of the community, Nikora has developed an empathy for the rest of the world where the pandemic has been rife.
"I wanted to help. Rather than sit here at the bottom of the world I wanted to utilise my skills.
"For Maori people, early last century, influenza had a strong effect on the population, with a high mortality rate, and that's strongly embedded in our memory. So, when the pandemic came around, a lot of us took it deadly seriously because a lot of us have ancestors who were affected by it."
Nikora spends up to eight hours a week on the project.
"I came on board to focus on the user interface. I have been contributing to the user interface team," Nikora said.
"You can have a medical professional or family member that could potentially supervise multiple people in multiple locations."
"I'm excited to be working with people from around the world," Nikora said.
"To be able to talk to them about how the pandemic has affected them has given me some unique perspectives."
Nikora appreciates getting access to other subject matter experts in software development on the ArdenVent team and is also seeking advice from the Company-X team too.
"I've been looking around and wanted to chase up whoever it is that knows a lot about Internet of Things [IoT] around here. Because working at Company-X allows me to tap into other experts who can give great advice on the architecture, my work and certain aspects.
"And that's what I'm hoping I can pick up as a way to apply to that particular project."
Ilewicz said after getting familiar with the project, Nikora had contributed to the discussion on how to best implement the network infrastructure layers.
Company-X co-founders and directors David Hallett and Jeremy Hughes are supportive or the project.
"This project is Kiwi ingenuity at its very best, solving the world's problems with the perfect marriage of software and hardware," Hallett said.
"We were thrilled to hear about the project and will support Mark in whatever way we can."
The trust is recruiting volunteers to work on the project, as well as seeking funding for manufacture.
In the early days of the pandemic, ArdenVent co-founder Alan Thomas, worrying about his own condition, built a prototype ventilator for the very worst case. He realised that other people could need such devices and that there will be a life-threatening shortage of not only ventilators but also medical professionals and oxygen.
The places that will need those the most, however, will not be able to afford expensive and maybe not even cheap devices in the numbers needed.
He reached out to Michael Ilewicz, whom he thought to be qualified for the challenge ahead, and together they set out to build smart ventilators and oxygen concentrators that are cost and energy effective. They agreed, that what they will create should be made accessible to those who need it, not those who can afford it.
More info at: www.ardenvent.com.