Ƶ’s Viran Dhanapala takes on Top Designs 2023 with low-cost ventilator

29th March 2023


Ƶ Year 12 student, Viran Dhanapala, is breathing life into socially responsive design, with his Unit 3/4 Systems Engineering project showcased at Top Designs 2023 at the Melbourne Museum.

Top Designs is an annual exhibition that celebrates the outstanding innovations of Victoria’s emerging designers, including VCE and VET students across several subjects such as Systems Engineering, Product Design and Technology, and Visual Communication and Design.

With over 1,000 applications from Victorian government, independent and Catholic schools, this year the exhibition features the works of 69 talented students who have been selected by panels of educators in each area of study.

From 24 March to 9 July 2023, visitors will have the opportunity to see how these students are using design to create a better world. In the Systems Engineering category, Viran’s project, a low-cost COVID-19 ventilator, is an excellent example of the socially responsive design themes that Top Designs aims to highlight.

“I first came up with the ventilator project during the COVID-19 pandemic when the shortage of ventilators was covered by the media,” Viran said.

“After some research, I was shocked to discover that a ventilator could cost between $25,000 to $50,000 dollars, and that some developing countries such as Somalia had zero ventilators. My prototype aimed to highlight the potential for an accessible low cost system that could be deployed in developing countries.”

Viran’s project demonstrated his ability to apply innovative thinking and problem-solving skills to transform people’s lives. His clever initiative involved designing an integrated system to automate the provision of ventilation, which would otherwise be issued through a handheld Ambu bag, or ‘bag valve mask’ by healthcare workers. An Ambu bag is a medical tool used to manually force air into the lungs of patients who need assistance breathing.

“The automation of this intensive procedure decreases worker fatigue, and the low cost allows for provision in developing countries,” Viran explained. “The Arduino (or control centre) utilises user set inputs, such as tidal volume and Breaths Per Minute, along with an algorithm to determine the frequency of the pulses sent to the stepper motor. The motor drives a rack and pinion to compress the Ambu bag.”

For more information about Top Designs 2023 and Viran’s project, visit .

Entry to Top Designs is free with museum entry, and students can enter Melbourne Museum for free. Visit the for more information about entry to the exhibition.