Covid has changed everything. Ventilators may be part of the solution, What can robot builders do to help? A “bag valve mask” might replace a ventilator, but it has to be manually squeezed and released to function. The squeeze and release could be a Vex robot with a long life motor. Are there any builders with medical resources that have idea?


saw this a few days ago. (a servo used to dispense hand sanitizer)


Glad to see someone else was thinking what I was thinking. Here we sit with a group of super inventive problem solvers with nothing to do. Not being from the medical field, I started doing some research on ventilators…

B-pap, and C-pap machines are fairly simple and basically just supply a certain volume of air at a certain pace or rhythm. Probably something we as roboteers could work towards. However, a “ventilator” is a much more complex machine. Not only do they have an adjustment for volume and rhythm, they also have the ability to maintain a positive pressure after the exhalation period. So that made me dig further into the medical side. Turns out that this is the most important part or function of the “vent”. The machine needs to help keep the avioli (air sacks) open and not allow them to collapse. The pressure sensing function of these machines is where I think we would hit a roadblock within our VEX toolboxes. I smile knowing that somewhere out there, there are young adults out there who have VEX/robotics backgrounds, and are now tackling today’s pandemic. :relieved::pray:


I was thinking the same thing.
My Son thinks his claw bot can be modified to squeeze a BVM and could power say 4 sets of claws for an ER setting. We can’t replace a ventilator but we can make bag masks work for people that just need a little help.

We’re going to mock something up.
If it works we can ask the local hospital to evaluate it. With only 60 cases in Montana we have time to try. If it works we can publish it and ask the community to replicate for their towns.




I mean, at this point anything is good, as long as it works. Just be aware of the fact that vex motors arent exactly the highest quality, and will probably start breaking down after hours of use


I’ve never used vex pneumatics, but in theory I think this might work. If you connected that actuator to a reservoir, you would then be able to regulate the resulting compressed air with valves via legacy ports for a crued C-pap. Not sure how vex components might control output pressure for more advanced functionality such as bipap. I also have absolutely no idea how much air this system would produce, but you could always add motors, pistons, or change up gearing/motor rpm.

Please ignore how the piston shakes. I didn’t spend too much time on the motion curves since this is a proof of concept, but if your interested, here’s what estimate “curves” look like.
11 AM

Also the mounting scheme is unnecessary, I just didn’t want to CAD zipties :upside_down_face:


As much as it is exciting to try to build a sophisticated piece of lifesaving machine, it is not an easy task even for professionals.

What everyone else can do tho to potentially save somebody else’s life is to practice social distancing and use a simple DIY personal protective equipment (PPE).


Since COVID-19 could be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers, when everybody wears masks in public, your mask could save my life and my mask could save yours.


Yep, we’re all sitting at home.
My thought is that the vex motors could work for a few weeks continually. I’m not thinking high tech. Watch the video above.
All they did was make a claw that actuates 10 times a minute.
If we can build something that just takes the load off of the nurses for a few minutes at a time I think that could be a win.

Anyone know a doctor we can ask?

Hense the rudimentary compressor. The sophisticated lifesaving machines such as ventilators cannot be recreated with vex parts. However, an air compressor is a basic mechanical device that I do think could be functional and helpful. It’s easy to say that medical aid is too complicated and that we should stick to super basic projects but in reality I think this community has the potential to make more of an impact than your average joe.

In my experience this is absolutely not true. Vex motors break all the time, and ports fry continually. A white screen that loses you a match could potentially end somebody’s life. I think it’s worth investing the time and effort into methods of assistance that function with reservoirs, providing a better window of sustainability so that there’s a higher chance somebody noticed the malfunction before it’s too late.


No doubt.
For what it’s worth we’d never be up to a medical grade task in a normal situation.

Does this feel like a normal situation to any of you? :slight_smile:

Please let me know your thoughts after watching that Rice video I linked above.


If you have a 3d printer…


Maybe some form of mechanism that could be hooked up to a more reliable motor.

Passive mechanisms could be good too, such as a foot operated air compressor that could be used while still letting the worker use both their hands

(I dont know what the compressor would be used for though)

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Compressed air is forced through the system to keep people breathing. Air compressors create that pressurized air system.

Maybe the the vex cortexes and pneumatics could be repurposed to control the air flow throughout the system.
I’m pretty sure the old vortexes dont crash. They dont, right?
(Although the system could probably be modded to work with an arduino or raspberry pi

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Essentially, the ventilator must deliver oxygen into the lungs (or in less severe cases through a mask) to the patient. By grouping patients into similar lung sizes, ventilators can serve multiple patients at once. I am not sure that pumping outside air in a hospital is a very good idea as germs may be floating everywhere. Luckily, most hospitals have air valves near each bed. A cool idea could be to measure airflow and create an airflow controller. Based on lung size, more/less air could be released.


Some very good ideas here! The oxygen-supply is esp intriguing.

There is a huge effort to open-source ventilators and from what I gather it is much more involved than pushing air.

MIT has some great insights:


Do you all realize the amount of testing that these have to go through in order to be used in a medical facility? There’s no way that they will begin using ventilators made out of vex parts in hospitals unless COVID-19 becomes much worse (yes, i know it’s really bad already) than it is now. This: is probably the best custom ventilators there is, and it goes well beyond vex parts. Not to mention, v5 hardware simply isn’t medical specification and the electronics for a real ventilator are much different, and probably cheaper in the model I linked, due to the low cost of micro controllers and hobby power supplies. But again, the reason that medical devices are high cost is because of their reliability, which we are well aware v5 DOES NOT HAVE.

All this said, I don’t want to come down harsh on anyone trying to help out in this time. I just want to say it isn’t practical right now to make a ventilator out of vex parts for use in a hospital. If rpeace42’s idea of a bag mask not to replace a ventilator is practical, It might be a very good idea, however I don’t know enough about all this to say whether hospitals would use something like that right now.


That’s an interesting design.
There’s also one proposed by an MIT Team.

Please note that the medical part of all these devices in the Ambu bag BVM and plumbing to limit pressure and dead airspaces.

The thing these project do is squeeze the hand powered emergency bag for a few hours so patience don’t die in the waiting rooms.


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You can’t make a vex ventilator. It just won’t logistically work. The battery can’t last more than an hour (I am being optimistic). This means every hour someone must come in and swap the battery and restart the program. The patient would;it be using the ventilator during this time. The vex motors would eventually overheat too, so you would need to have multiple motors powering it with only some running at a time. What if the brain white screens? What if a screw comes loose? Vex is just too unreliable to be up to the task.


Vex motors have a hard time working for minutes continuously.