Northwestern College Class of 2023 grad wins international tech design competition

Samantha Olson, a May graduate of Northwestern College and Washington University in St. Louis, was one of three Washington University students to win first place in Rice University’s 360 Global Health Technologies Design Competition. The competition features low-cost technology designs created to address global health challenges in resource-limited settings.

Olson’s team, named Fistula Fighters, was awarded a $500 prize for designing a pair of bike shorts that functions as a discrete urine collection system. The device is intended for use by women who develop vesicovaginal fistulas and experience incontinence due to limited maternal and emergency health care.

“Wearing the device, women can perform everyday tasks again and reintegrate into their communities,” Olson says.

Over the next year, Olson and her teammates will finetune the product design and evaluate manufacturing methods. They plan to perform clinical trials at Terrewode Women’s Community Hospital, a dedicated fistula hospital in Uganda. Once trials are complete, the Fistula Fighters will work with Terrewode to distribute the bike shorts to women in need.

Fistula Fighters competed against 27 teams from universities in eight countries: Bangladesh, Canada, Columbia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and the U.S.

Olson will graduate from Northwestern College and Washington University this month, receiving bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and biology–health professions from Northwestern and a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Washington University. Olson has accepted a position as associate clinical account specialist with Biosense Webster in Sioux Falls, a Johnson & Johnson company.