Giving Back: Sixdof at ALYN's PELEthon

On March 13, 2018, the Sixdof team took the day off. No, not for the vacation they could certainly use, but to give back the community, as participants in ALYN Children’s Hospital’s PELEthon contest. The day was dedicated to “hacking together” innovative solutions to very specific medical challenges that the hospital has identified as needing a creative, hi-tech approach.


The challenge to our team: Measure the quality of a child’s swallowing. Doctors often need to monitor how often, and how well, infants and young children swallow.  Today’s primary methods are endoscopy and X-ray imaging, both of which are invasive. The only alternative is for the doctor to hold a stethoscope against the child's neck and listen for the sound of swallowing, which is somewhat imprecise, uncomfortable for the child, and requires constant attention by a doctor.


We were a perfect fit to take on this challenge; our team is made up of experts in electronics, sensors and algorithms. We developed prototypes of a sensor that measures the quality of a child's swallow in a noninvasive and more convenient way.  We demonstrated two different solutions: one based on sound (like the stethoscope) but can be much more unobtrusive, operated without constant monitoring by a doctor. The second solution we created was based on a motion sensor: These sensors, which are widely available and inexpensive, are connected to an inexpensive Arduino microcontroller which processes the signal from the sensor.  When the child swallows, a series of LEDs light up, and the number of lights and their colors correspond to how strong the swallow was.


Though we only had one day to work, we can see a final proof of concept product in which we would combine both types of sensors to be more accurate in our detections.


Oh, and although we hadn’t been clear about the fact that it was a contest, we came in second place! We look forward to continuing to work with ALYN in developing this solution and to be part of future innovation days.