Monday, March 23, 2020

Aaron Hannon receiving his award as the winner of the 2019 Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition for his project to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. Also included is Bill McKiernan, Ireland Funds America Board Director.

By Orla Hearns

Ballina student engineer and entrepreneur Aaron Hannon is part of a team of top researchers, academics and medics that have been working to fast track the development of an easy-to-build emergency ventilator for use in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aaron, who is a son of David and Sharon Hannon from Quignalegan on the Sligo Road in Ballina, launched a GoFundMe campaign for the ventilator team last week.

The fundraiser, which is called ‘Keep Breathing: Fund Emergency COVID19 Ventilators’, has already raised over €90,000.

Aaron is no stranger to the field of innovation. While still a student at St Muredach’s College in Ballina he was a member of the F1 in Schools group, Team AIB Racing, that won third place in the 2015 World Finals of that prestigious Formula One car design competition. That also resulted in Aaron being awarded a scholarship for the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy.

In 2017, Aaron won the national SciFest championship for a device he designed to assist people with limited hand dexterity to shave. He went on to represent Ireland with that design at the Intel ISEF 2018 in the United States where he received a first in the Embedded Systems category.

Since then Aaron has been engaged in research at NUI Galway where he is also pursuing his degree in engineering.

He is currently working on a device to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy for which he was awarded €15,000 in The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition last year.

When third-level colleges recently closed as part of Covid-19 preventative measures, researchers like Aaron were urged to divert their talents to initiatives to assist with the treatment/containment of the pandemic.

He explains: “I have been lucky to get with a group of people across the country that includes students and engineers working with consultant anesthetists and doctors to try and come up with a solution to the ventilator problem. We ultimately only ventilate 7,000 people in a normal year in Ireland and we might need to do 100,000 in the coming few months.”

Aaron is very happy to be working on the initiative as is increasingly focussing his own studies and research on medical device engineering.

“It’s kind of in the family in that my dad is a medical device engineer. For me, a big part of it is a sense of purpose and a sense of the impact that I want to make.”

Aaron says the unprecedented scale of the Covid-19 pandemic means he and his team are working to highly ambitious targets. They have been consulting with HSE experts over the last week to ensure they are on the right clinical track and are already close to producing their first prototype. If that is successful they will progress to testing as quickly as possible.

They have been blown away by the generous response to the GoFundMe account to date which will contribute significantly to the estimated costs of the research and development phase of the project.

Aaron extends thanks to everyone who has supported the initiative to date. If you would like to contribute please donate online via www.gf.me.

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