The Okoa Project

Increasing access to healthcare through design

I leveraged user research to build motorcyle ambulances that are now serving over 2,000 people in Tanzania.

Overview

Role

Mechanical Engineer + Product Designer

Date

2016-2019

Rural populations have the highest rate of preventable infant mortality in the world.

In 2016, I joined a team of engineers to research, prototype and implement an accessible solution for mothers around the world. I conducted user research on healthcare in rural Tanzania, designed a motorcycle ambulance, prototyped in the field, helped raised initial capital, and began implementing these ambulatory devices in the field. In 2019 we launched our pilot phase and reached 2 communities in Southern Tanzania.

Research & Design

From day 1, we began with community centered design. We partnered with a local NGO - The Olive Branch for children, who were already doing incredible work in our target areas. This gave us a great base to begin doing user interviews, concept testing, and find insights. After some initial research, I created the original CAD & conducted FEA to begin preliminary analyses.

Key Insight:

From our initial research we realized there was a huge opportunity to leverage existing infrastructure - motobikes. If we could create a universal attachment, any motorcycle could be transformed into a lifesaving ambulance.

Portfolio

Prototype & Manufacture

Armed with our research findings, we traveled to a Northern Tanzanian innovation hub Twende and worked with experts there to understand what materials, processes, and resources were available locally. Here, we created our first field-ready prototype and tested it motorcycle drivers in a wide variety of conditions. This resulted in an iterative design loop of testing, mutiple stakeholder feedback, and redesign.

Community Driven

We worked with community partners at the Olive Branch for children and Twende. Leveraging their manufacturing and contextual expertise we were able to create a meaningful product.

Portfolio

Testing the first ambulance

Implementation & Impact

We began our first pilot program in October of 2018. I worked with the project until 2019 at which point we had completed over 100 rides and delivered 5 ambulances to communities. The organization has gone on to expand to 15 communities with 100 ambulances and serve over 2,000 people.