The Okoa Project - an introduction

Rural communities in Tanzania and other developing countries are located far from healthcare facilities, making it difficult to receive medical attention in an emergency. As few transportation options are available due to the distance from facilities or large cities, poor road conditions, and lack of financial resources, residents often cannot access vehicles equipped to transport a patient for long distances. We are excited to be the first project out of Kubuni that can begin to address this gap.

Started through a collaboration between The Olive Branch for Children and MIT D-Lab, The Okoa Project has been exploring motorcycle ambulances as a solution to the above problem. We started in February of 2016, and since then our team has completed 3 trips to Tanzania that have included designing with local engineers, interviews with patients, and testing in the villages. We hope to provide realistic and affordable ways for rural communities to reach healthcare through collaboration with Tanzanians.

This January, two of our team members have been working in Uyole with The Kubuni Centre and The Olive Branch for Children to move the project forward in the design process. As we iterate on our previous prototype, we have been teaching Kubuni Centre staff members, Kulwa and Doto, to work with metal and weld. Working with them has been very rewarding as they quickly pick up skills and have already been inspired to think up new designs to try out on their own. Moving forward we are excited to continue working with them on our project as well as future manufacturing projects.

Another goal that we have been working towards is establishing a partnership between Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST) and The Okoa Project through the Kubuni Collaborative. During the beginning of last week, our team has presented to the MUST Vice Chancellor, Mechanical Engineering faculty members and students, about The Okoa Project and opportunities to involve engineering students in our design process. All parties were excited about the potential for collaboration, and so developed a 12-week program in which 8 undergraduate engineering students will be working on the design of the ambulance in parallel with MIT students out of D-Lab.

This past Saturday, we held an orientation and showed off our prototype at the Kubuni Centre for the selected students and the Mechanical Engineering course coordinators. There is so much potential for both sides to learn from one another. We are really looking forward to the first week of March when the program kicks off and hope this will contribute to Kubuni's vision of creating reciprocal knowledge sharing relationships around the world!!

The last few weeks have been extremely productive and a lot of fun. We are looking forward to working with the Kubuni Centre in the next few months as we progress with the design of our prototype and with the MUST program. We have made huge advancements with exploring emergency transport options for vulnerable areas, and can’t wait to see the potential of The Okoa Project in the months to come!

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