"It's such a great project:" Group of Marquette students working to save lives

MILWAUKEE -- A group of Marquette University biomedical engineers is working to save lives in underdeveloped countries.

Marquette University students work on human-powered nebulizer

Julie Griep is one of a handful of students at Marquette University working on a life-saving medical device:  a human-powered nebulizer.

"It's such a great project. I had to be a part of it," said Griep.

A nebulizer turns liquid medicine into a vapor that can be inhaled deep into the lungs --  helping patients with respiratory disease breathe easier.

"Respiratory diseases are among the most fatal and prevalent in developing countries and so they see that they really need this," said Lars Olson, interim chair and an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Marquette University.

The problem is, a traditional nebulizer uses electricity or batteries to work, and most underdeveloped countries don't have reliable utilities.

Marquette University students work on human-powered nebulizer

"I'm trying to design a bike pedal which would make it easier for anyone to operate this," said Griep.

These students created a human-powered nebulizer. The work began 12 years ago when Olson took some students to South American and saw the need.

Marquette University students work on human-powered nebulizer

"That was the start of it and then for the last 12 years we've been working, refining," said Olson.

These 20 devices the students are assembling will be delivered to Guatemala later this month.

"Almost everywhere we showed our devices the first thing out of their mouths was 'wow, this is really going to help us,'" said Olson.

The Marquette Senior Engineering Design Team was one of 16 to be recognized as a top excellence and entrepreneurship team.

"These are for real devices. They're really going to go save lives, so it has a real impact to motivate students to study harder and to be motivated towards their career," said Olson.

At the end of March they will exhibit their project at the National Collegiate Investors and Innovators Alliance's annual "March Madness for the Mind Showcase."