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Ignite Learners and Makers Shine Bright on 2nd Annual Duke Day

On Sunday, April 2nd, Duke Global Women’s Health Technologies hosted its 2nd annual Ignite Duke Day.

The Ignite program, led by GWHT and the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, is dedicated to human-centered design for middle and high school students. The program aims to create prototype solutions that address the UN sustainability goals of clean energy, clean water, and good health. Students gain valuable skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to tackle these challenges. The Duke Day event was a showcase for the impressive work done by middle and high school students throughout the year.

It is worth noting that the program experienced significant growth in its second year. In 2022, 21 middle school students and 5 high school students attended Duke Day, but in 2023, the event drew in 45 middle school students and 10 high school students. We are so excited to see how Ignite continues to bloom in the years to come.

Keep reading to see what these students were up to this year!

All photos used with permission.

Middle School Learners prepare to give their poster presentations.


This spring, 49 middle-school “Learners” worked virtually and in person with undergraduate student Trainers from Duke University for eight weeks to research a problem within their community and design a prototype and finished product to help solve these issues. On Duke Day, Learners presented their final projects, a culmination of their hard work throughout the program to their friends, family, and judges. During their poster presentations, Learners spoke about the issue they set out to solve, the process they took to design and test their prototype, and the eventual journey they took to get to their final product while considering both aesthetics and utility. The Learners also looked ahead and considered what next steps they would like to take for their designs.


The Light team focused on UN sustainable goal #7, affordable and clean energy. The 17 Light Learners worked towards designing a renewable energy source and learning basic circuitry. They worked on creating flashlights and seeing how a light source can increase access to energy in communities that need it the most.

With the number of extreme weather events increasing globally, the Learners on the Light team build and test flashlights to address power outages in their homes or community.



The Water team centered on UN sustainable goal #6, clean water and sanitation. The 16 Water Learners offered different prototype solutions to this issue by building a water filtration system or microscope that could help people filter and detect harmful contamination in water sources.

Learners and Trainers of the Water team construct low-cost water filters and microscopes to both clean and monitor local water sources.



The Health team explored UN sustainable goal #3, good health and well-being. 16 Health Learners designed pulse oximeter prototypes to understand and apply STEM concepts in biomedical engineering. These pulse oximeters helped to measure oxygen levels and heart rates for a wide audience.

Left: Health Learners and their Trainers. Right: Health Learner Violet displays her pulse oximeter specifically designed for her grandparents to monitor their health at home.



Maker Prisha shows off her prototype titled the "ThermoChill Knee Brace" which seeks to address the need for a non-surgical, accessible device to relieve pain for elderly patients with osteoarthritis by the use of heating and cooling elements controlled by a smartphone app.

In addition to the middle school Learners, 13 high school Ignite Makers also gave presentations.

The Ignite Maker program is Ignite’s open-ended problem-solving program where high schoolers work with undergraduate mentors for a full academic term. Makers chose a UN Sustainable Development Goal and went through the same human-centered design process to create a unique design for a chosen problem.

The Makers each delivered 10-minute presentations of their projects addressing community issues. The issues these projects faced were more diverse than the Light, Water, and Health categories that were given to the Learners, with some Makers tackling issues such as cancer awareness, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and secondhand smoke. Just like the Learners, the Makers also showcased their prototypes and gave presentations on their designs. They discussed the testing process, the challenges they encountered during their research, and the future directions they plan to take.

High school Makers with their Trainers.

Congratulations to all of Ignite's Learners, Makers, and Trainers for a great year!


The application for the 2023-2024 Ignite Makers programs for high school students is now live!

Applications are due by August 15th, 2023. Applications should be completed and submitted by students. Please pass along this opportunity to anyone you think may be interested and contact Dr. Megan Madonna ( with any questions you may have.



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