San Jose teen creates portable incubators for newborns in India

Seventeen-year-old Nishi Dahria unpacked months of patience Thursday outside Presentation High School in San Jose.

Hard work and some rejection resulted in the creation of a portable neonatal incubator for newborns, that can function without electricity.

"When they’re born, they can’t regulate their own temperature. And they don’t have enough body fat to keep warm. That’s why they’re kept in an incubator," said Dahria.

That may not seem dire in a first-world nation. But for some parts of the globe, such as India, incubators can drastically reduce the 90% mortality rate among premature babies.

Dahria decided to take action after witnessing poverty, and premature babies dying due to a shortage of incubators firsthand in her home country of India.

While just a high school senior, she put the finishing touches on her years-long project. The Impact Incubator uses pouches heated in boiling water to warm an infant’s body temperature and keep them alive.

About 125 devices that she designed, have been distributed in Bangalore Province, India.

"I have to try my best and actually help people," Dahria said.

Family friend KV Manjunath helped with logistics.

"We have reached some, more than five, six, major hospitals in the cities and interior places. So most of the doctors used it. And very good feedback we’ve got from them," Manjunath told KTVU.

Dahria first submitted her Impact Incubator as her 8th-grade science fair project. She didn’t win or even place. She put down the quest but returned to it as a high school sophomore after seeing a relative give birth to a premature baby. She never gave up on the concept, and after some improvements, garnered support to launch her venture.

"We are just brimming with pride for Nishi," said Presentation High School Principal Holly Elkins. "we’re all about problem-solving. We’re all about seeing something in the world that could be better and figuring out a way to fix it. And Nishi is just a living example of that."

Dahria is hopeful her initial 125 incubator distribution will grow to 500 by 2022. And save the youngest and most vulnerable from staring at a possible death sentence.

"We have access to really good healthcare here, and they deserve it as well," Dahria said