Inscriptions Magazine

by Andrea Kemmerrer

  • Posted on January 29, 2016

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Engineering Smiles was published in Inscriptions magazine.

Here is the syndicated article:

Inscriptions magazine publication



Engineering and architectural students from Arizona State University designed a mobile dental clinic that will be used for dental student training and outreach services in Nicaragua. However, the unit will initially be used to provide free dental services at a yet-to-be-determined site in Phoenix in the summer of 2016.

ASU’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) Engineering Smiles team is designing the mobile dental clinic for IMAHelps, a Californiabased non-profit organization that conducts frequent medical and dental humanitarian missions in Nicaragua, whose extreme poverty is second only to Haiti in the Western Hemisphere.

When the team started to design the interior of the unit, they asked Dentists and girlIMAHelps to provide them with a list of their needs and wants for the trailer. The most important criteria was up to four private dental stations, self-contained, a sterilization area, bathroom, and skylights to allow for natural lighting. All other features were included into the trailer including a pediatric/American Disabilities Act compliant station, small waiting area, solar panels, and storage.

What does the mobile unit contain?

The mobile unit is built on a 50-foot gooseneck trailer, containing four dental stations, a sanitation room, a reception area, and copious amounts of storage. The unit is small enough to be towed by a large pick-up truck, and it includes a self-leveling system to compensate for uneven surfaces when the unit is set up. The trailer has an array of solar panels on top to provide up to half of the required power to the unit, while a 12 kilowatt generator in the gooseneck provides the remaining power. The four dental stations are laid out in such a way that they provide an open layout without compromising privacy of the patients. The first station can be used for longer procedures or as a pre-screening area to expedite the waiting process. The rear unit is ADA compliant and can also act as a pediatric station as it is outfitted with toys and a television. There is also a portable x-ray machine and computer on board to help the dentists with their work.

How has the team designed the unit so that it is sanitary?

The unit’s interior is comprised of medical grade surfaces. The sanitation area has a fridge and two high-power sanitation machines, allowing the staff to properly store and clean any materials they need. The HVAC system in the unit will keep the temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. On top of that, the ventilation system is based off a clean room design, providing filtered air into the unit along the top while removing air through vents along the floor. This keeps any contaminants from being blown around the unit and forces them downwards, keeping dust and dirt from shoes from being kicked up into the air. This is aided by a secondary roof mounted air conditioning unit that is positioned over the sanitation area, adding more downward airflow, more cooling, as well as pressurizing the area to keep contaminants out.

What did dentists want included in the unit that wasn’t?

Dentists and BoyThe dentists wanted a type of UV light to sanitize the whole unit overnight. However, these types of lights are only used in small areas such as in an air filter as they are highly damaging to other materials. The design team decided not to use these in the unit as longevity was more important than expediting the sanitation procedure. Those on mission trips will have to wipe everything down with chemical cleaners as they would in a hospital if they want to fully sterilize the unit after use.

More information about IMAHelps can be found at

Read the original article here.

About the Author

Andrea Kemmerrer

Andrea is a Senior at Arizona State University majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a strong interest in the medical field. She is the administrator for the Engineering Smiles website and writes the regular project updates on the Engineering Smiles' team behalf. Read more about Andrea on the About the Team page.