Imagine a person needs to use an inhaler because they’re having difficulty breathing, but they don’t have the strength or dexterity to use the standard device.

Is there a way to reduce the amount of force needed to trigger an inhaler?  There are over a million patients diagnosed with neuromuscular diseases, many of these people have difficulties using the current inhaler design.  My team worked with a

doctor specializing in inhalation therapy, to develop a Modified Inhaler Adapter (MIA).  MIA solves this problem with a more ergonomic solution, resulting in an easy to use inhaler.  Our design incorporates a two-wedge system that allows the patient to use their whole hand to activate the inhaler, while reducing the force needed to trigger the aerosol canister containing the medication.

Final Deliverables

Our final product utilized a simple 4-piece mechanism to reduce the triggering force needed, while keeping manufacturing costs low.  Our design can be used with most canisters as-is, and is easily adjustable to support other canister designs.  Although the focus was on supporting older people, we found it very helpful for younger children with smaller hands.


Our final product was presented in the Small Undergrad Research Grant (SURG) Competition, and was awarded the Biomedical Engineering Design Project Award by the Head of the Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University.


My team started our research by understanding the current inhaler design.  We conducted field research observing our targeted audience of people 65 and older.  By interviewing both residents and nurses at a local nursing home, we found insights into the flaws in the current design and how we could improve it.  We solidified our early design concepts, resulting in three different potential solutions. After presenting our solutions to those we had interviewed at the nursing home, we decided to move forward and develop the two-handed wedge mechanism.

I took the lead in prototype creation and testing.  Leveraging a 3D printer I developed a base prototype that we could use with different attachments.  This allowed us to experience the ergonomics of the arms, while testing how it affected the pressure needed to activate the canister.