“This award is a beacon; it’s about where to go and how to get there,” said Selker. The Stringray fit that model with straightforward elegance, an engaging tactility, and innate ergonomics. The device connects the catheter used in an epidural to a syringe or IV filled with medicine. When the catheter is inserted into the connector, it can then be sealed or opened up to allow medicine to flow with a quarter-turn rotation. Project director Paul Carlson explains: “The tapered catheter insertion port and the stop feature tells the clinician when the catheter is properly seated. The audible and tactile ‘click’ reinforces the visual indication that the connector is in the closed position.”
That’s a marked improvement over previous catheter connectors, which usually require multiple turns of a retaining ring with no indication of how tight the grip is, thereby making the administration of an epidural more complicated and needlessly uncertain.
The connector has a low profile, soft edges, colors that designate sizes, and a non-slip grip. In its simplicity and ease of use, it helps remove some of the stresses for patient and health worker that accompany an epidural. Patton noted, “All it takes is missing one essential detail” to foil a product design. “If you assume you know a product, you get into a rut.” Here, those details seem to have been considered. The jurors agreed that it spoke to the good things in design: invention, aesthetics, ergonomics, image. As Selker said, “It teaches you. And it does a good job. The texture of the rubber, the logic for the color is all gorgeous.” “It has a delicate and fine resolution,” Ludwig added. “And it gives the people using it a sense of delight.” With a retail cost of $21, the system also illustrated Ludwig’s point that “it doesn’t cost much to do something right.” The only criticism came when jurors wondered whether the catchpoint might hurt if an errant fingertip were caught in it. Said Patton: “It might easily puncture a rubber glove. Nurses always want to get rid of sharp edges.” To solve that problem, the jurors suggested a butterfly shape for the connector rather than its present circular form, which would position fingertips farther from the clasping mechanism.
— DESIGN Brownlie Design (Skaneateles, NY): Bob Naas, senior designer; Paul Carlson, project director; Scott Ryan, president CLIENT Epimed International (Johnstown, NY) MATERIALS Medical grade ABS, Medical grade Santoprene SOFTWARE SolidWorks, Rhino 3D, Pro/Engineer