Written by Summer Institute Manager Maddy Bishop-Van Horn

View of Copenhagen

For several years, Engineering World Health has partnered with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) to send student volunteers to Nepal. The program has grown and matured, and we’d like to share its interesting origins:

In 2014, DTU student David Kovacs was a participant in the EWH Summer Institute in Tanzania. By this time, he’d already spent some time in Nepal, and was eager to put his skills to work in Tanzania. During the summer, David became convinced that EWH’s services were needed in Nepal. During the final conference, David pitched the idea to visiting EWH CEO, Leslie Calman. Together, they began putting together a program.

EWH first sent a group of alumni to Nepal during January of 2016, where they provided valuable support to hospitals recovering from earthquake damage. At the same time, DTU and were developing one of the first EWH Campus-to-Country programs. In these,  students get technical training on campus, then travel to host countries for brief language and cultural training before starting work in hospitals. Due to a partnership with DTU and the Nordic5 technical schools, this course is also open to students from four other Scandinavian universities. Visiting students travel to Copenhagen for the 3-week course before continuing on to volunteer in hospitals abroad.

DTU professors Kaj-Åge Henneberg and Jens E. Wilhjelm, in collaboration with the very active EWH DTU chapter,  are the masterminds behind an incredibly hands-on curriculum preparing students for the demands of troubleshooting medical equipment in low-resource environments.

DTU’s course continues to be the gold-standard for EWH on-campus training: The 3-week course utilizes nearly every classroom in DTU’s biomedical engineering department--and even a couple of basement storage rooms.

Two students test unknown components

Students identify and test unknown components.

The accredited course starts with one week of student teams rotating through up to 32 skills stations. These stations provide challenges like building an extension cord, mapping a complicated transformer, determining how to replace an overheating component on a circuit board, and identifying strange electrical components.

Over the next two weeks, teams rotate daily through eight different medical equipment troubleshooting stations. The stations include anesthesia machines, autoclaves, oxygen concentrators, infant incubators, patient monitors, suction machines, infusion pumps, and other devices. At these stations, students are challenged to search through manuals and open-source online resources to identify components, troubleshoot, and calibrate the device.

Volunteer going to Mongolia learns about how to put together the patient circuit of an anesthesia machine. Volunteers going to Nepal identify the types of motors in suction machines and nebulizers.


The course has grown yearly and nearly always has a wait list – this year, 36 students were enrolled. Of those enrolled, 21 are now volunteering in Nepal and 6 have been joined by EWH alumni in EWH’s newest program – Mongolia. Other DTU students are eager to take the course simply to learn more hands-on engineering skills and instrumentation curriculum.

Now that the students trained at DTU are in the field, all Institutes are underway! DTU-trained students join a cohort of 107 EWH Institute 2018 volunteers serving in Nepal, Mongolia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.