A Team of Makers Fights COVID-19 in the Dominican

Wily
5 min readMay 5, 2020
Members of the Open Air DR team with their ventilator prototype, including Marizeth Beato (second from left).

We love it when our training participants use their new skills to do good in the world. But we had no idea one participant would go on to create a low-cost portable ventilator to fight COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic.

Meet Marizeth Beato, a telecommunications engineer in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR). Marizeth is an entrepreneur and one of the founders of Open Air DR — a collaborative aimed at developing open source, low-cost health safety products to combat COVID-19.

We worked with Marizeth over a four-day Design Sprint & Product Innovation Bootcamp we had the privilege of running in Santo Domingo in February 2020. Marizeth was one of fifty talented Dominicans that participated in the Bootcamp, which was made possible by a U.S. State Department grant and the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.

Marizeth (left) and a teammate working on a prototype at the Design Sprint & Product Innovation Bootcamp.

In her Bootcamp application, Marizeth noted:

“It would be an incredible opportunity to participate in this bootcamp that I know will help me in the evolution and future creation of products.”

She could not have been more right.

The Bootcamp was led by Design Sprint experts Eric Gorman and Julia Jackson of Wily, and product development experts Jeremy Losaw of Enventys and Emil Rodriguez of Xolutronic. With their guidance, Marizeth learned Design Sprint methods and developed a prototype using Particle — an IoT cloud-based hardware and software platform that proved to be critical to Marizeth and her Open Air DR team. Stated Marizeth:

“I fell in love with Particle at the Bootcamp. I hadn’t used it before. At the Bootcamp, we learned that Particle can not only be used in prototyping but also for production and that’s exactly what we needed with this project.”

Images of Particle boards that Marizeth learned to use at the Design Sprint & Product Innovation Bootcamp.

Enter COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic (the DR’s first case was reported on March 1, 2020), Marizeth and a team of friends got to work thinking about how they could help their country. Said Marizeth:

“The DR has 10 million inhabitants, but only 500 ventilators in the whole country. As we looked at the news and watched what was happening in Italy and Spain, we saw that this could hit us hard. Everyone was expecting the government to do more. If it hits hard, we have a really big population. We’re going to have to compete for the resources and it won’t end up well. We had to do something.”

Marizeth and her team got inspired.

Inspired by a 2010 publication about a low cost, open source ventilator designed and prototyped by MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Marizeth and her team began building their own early ventilator prototypes. They used local, readily available materials and the Particle hardware and software. Explained Marizeth:

“We found the MIT open source design for a ventilator and Prusa Printer’s open source 3D face shield design. We started with these designs that already existed and created a team to ask: what else can we do?”

Open Air DR went to work.

Marizeth and her team received advice and feedback on their early ventilator prototypes from medical and engineering professionals, including the Yunén Medical Group, Dr. Pablo Smester from CEDIMAT Hospital, and MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor Alex Slocum. With this feedback, they were able to adjust their design to meet recommendations for maximum air pressure and frequency (0–25 breaths per minute), among other improvements.

Marizeth working on the Open Air DR ventilator prototype.
Open Air DR’s ventilator prototype and 3D model in action.

Open Air DR’s latest ventilator design is being used and tested in a local hospital in the DR. The ventilator helps infected patients that need breathing assistance but do not yet require intubation — the process of inserting a tube into a person’s mouth and airway. This addresses a crucial supply challenge for hospitals. Using Open Air DR’s ventilators for non-critical patients will free up the limited medical-grade ventilators required by those in critical condition, and prevent a ventilator shortage that might otherwise occur.

The team is currently awaiting the delivery of production parts and will start production on an improved design for 100 ventilators in the next few weeks. These essential ventilators will be donated to hospitals throughout the DR. Said Marizeth:

“I am really excited and overwhelmed. [We’re producing] something that can save the lives of patients. It’s also personal — I suffer from asthma. Knowing that there are people like me that are in danger of getting critical in this situation — it feels really, really good to help.”

Open Air DR ventilator prototype being monitored during testing.

“It encourages us to keep going and do more.”

After medical tests and the first deliveries are complete, Open Air DR plans to release all the plans, source code, and step-by-step instructions so other people can replicate the ventilator.

The Open Air DR engineers and designers have been inspired to think of other low-cost, effective solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are currently prototyping and testing sanitation boxes for office documents and food delivery for essential businesses, and isolation gurneys to keep infected patients from spreading COVID-19 during transport.

Rendering and 3D model of an enclosed gurney designed by Open Air DR to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from infected patients being transported within hospitals.

In addition, Open Air DR has also been working with local DR companies to apply laser cutting, CNC machines, and 3D printing technologies to increase the speed and reduce the cost of the production of face shields. These improvements have enabled the rapid ramp-up in the production of these protective devices to over 42,000 and counting.

“It’s like revenge of the nerds, makers, and hackers,” said Marizeth. “This is a time we can contribute and do things that the medical professionals can use to save lives. We have a great team.”

Video showing the Open Air DR team creating and assembling face shields.

You can help these heroes.

Marizeth and the rest of the Open Air DR team are heroes. Here’s how you can amplify and accelerate their work:

  • Follow Open Air DR on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @OpenAirDR and visit openairdr.org
  • Donate to the Fundación Hábito de Estudio based in Santo Domingo, DR, which supports Open Air DR’s work
  • Or donate directly to Open Air DR at openairdr.org/donation/
  • For media inquires or questions, email Marizeth Beato at zeth@bontix.com

Wily is a Design Sprint Agency dedicated to helping change agents across Fortune 500 companies, government teams, institutions, and start-ups tackle complex challenges and achieve tangible outcomes through fast-paced virtual and in-person Sprint workshops. Learn more at wearewily.com.

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Wily

Wily is a Design Sprint Agency dedicated to helping change agents tackle complex challenges through fast-paced Sprint workshops. Learn more at wearewily.com