Engineering Smiles’ mobile dental clinic ready to hit the road
Above: Nick Kemme and Sara Mantlik show off the completed mobile dental clinic, which will expand the mission impact of IMAHelps, a nonprofit group that provides dental and medical care to underserved populations in Central and South America. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
Four years, $80,000 of fundraising and innumerable obstacles later, a team of engineering students have completed a mobile dental clinic, destined to bolster dental care missions to developing nations.
The team, Engineering Smiles, got their start in 2013 in the Engineering Projects in Community Service program. EPICS pairs multidisciplinary student teams with a nonprofit, community or governmental agency to solve an engineering problem and develop professional skills. Engineering Smiles partnered with IMAHelps, a California-based nonprofit that organizes missions to Central and South America to provide medical and dental care to underprivileged populations.
“Getting this finished is just about the best graduation present I could ask for,” says Sara Mantlik, team lead, of the completed clinic.
While the majority of the original Engineering Smiles team either graduated or moved onto other projects, Mantlik and fellow mechanical engineering graduate student Nick Kemme have stuck with the project since its inception. They’re both slated to graduate with their master’s in mechanical engineering this spring.
“We were concerned we weren’t going to be able to finish our fundraising goal, but things really came together in the last month and a half,” said Kemme.
The completed clinic is housed in a trailer measuring 24 feet long and eight feet wide, and comes equipped with two dental operatories, and a sterilization area for handpieces. Catalina Laboratory Products, a Tucson-based company, donated thousands of dollars worth of materials and services, including the clinic’s cabinetry, flooring and upgraded furnishings.
“They donated their time, materials and manpower. We went down to Tucson, picked out what we wanted for the trailer and laid it out how we wanted it,” says Kemme. “It was such a huge help.”
The air-conditioned clinic is powered by a diesel generator and can be set up in a range of conditions and operate self-sufficiently.
Mantlik, who went on a mission to El Salvador with IMAHelps in August 2015, made the clinic’s self-sufficiency a priority.
“Sometimes they spend at least 12 hours trying to adapt what they have to fit the environment they’re working in,” says Mantlik of the IMAHelps missions. “That, combined with the unreliable power in the areas they work in, can mean almost 300 patients that don’t get care.”
Engineering Smiles will be handing the clinic off to IMAHelps soon, who are responsible for registering and insuring the trailer, and then transporting it to Nicaragua. The clinic will reside at Universidad Católica de Nicaragua, where it will be used as a training aide for dentistry students when not in use by IMAHelps.
Following graduation, Mantlik is taking a break and traveling through Europe before going to work for GE Healthcare, entering their operation management leadership program.
Kemme will begin his career with General Atomics in San Diego as an optomechanical engineer, but not before taking a well-deserved break to bike and camp in Zion National Park, Utah as well as a family vacation to Hawaii.
“The Engineering Smiles team wants to give a special thanks to their top supporters, including Catalina Laboratory Products, Thomas Prescott, EPICS@ASU, Mr. & Mrs. Geyser, the Elliott Endowment Commitment, the A.T. Still University Physician Assistant Class of 2018, Mrs. Norton and Mr. Kern,” says Mantlik. “Due to the generosity and support of these and over 100 other individuals, the Engineering Smiles team successfully built a mobile dental clinic from inception to implementation.”
For the past four years, the Engineering Smiles team has been working to design, fund and deliver a mobile dental clinic to their partner organization, the goal of their Engineering Projects in Community Service project. The remaining team members, mechanical engineering graduate students Sara Mantlik and Nick Kemme, have seen it through the end. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
The clinic is outfitted with two two dental operatories, with carts and dental handpieces, a sterilization area and a great deal of storage, taped up for transport. Catalina Laboratory Products, based in Tucson, donated thousands of dollars of equipment and materials, including the clinic's flooring, cabinets and furnishings. The company also installed the donated materials. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
The center portion of the clinic houses sterilization equipment, including a manual sterilizer and an ultrasonic cleaner, and removable shelving to accommodate multiple working setups or different equipment. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
The second operatory sits in the rear of the clinic. Both operatories offer enough room for a dentist and dental hygienist to work, and feature a full set of handpieces for use. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
The clinic itself is housed in a 24-foot long trailer, complete with its own diesel generator and air conditioning. Making the clinic mobile and self-sustaining was a top priority for Mantlik, who went on an IMAHelps mission in 2015. Unreliable power is a widespread issue faced on missions, as are difficult, remote locations IMAHelps travels to in order to serve underprivileged populations who need care. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU