2 Black College Students Create ‘Smart Mat’ To Help Diabetics

Each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 Americans will have to have a lower limb amputated.

By Robert Stitt

According to Diabetes.org, 60 percent of those amputations are the direct result of diabetes. These figures are bad, but it gets worse. The Centers for Disease Control state that the rate of people getting diabetes is increasing every year, and with the increase in diabetes, there will almost certainly be a rise in diabetes-related amputations.

Statistics from the American Diabetes Association, note that nearly 15 percent of African Americans over 20 years of age have diabetes, and African Americans are almost twice as likely to have diabetes than whites. Further, it is three times more likely that their diabetes will result in an amputation.

In the United States, the state of Mississippi consistently rates at or near the top of a list it does not want to be on: the state with the most diabetics. It is fitting then, that help for diabetics should come from this state.

Recently, two African American students studying computer engineering at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, had an idea. They decided to create a mat that could sense the temperature differences in a person’s feet over time. This “smart mat” would be able to tell diabetics if they are nearing a point where their feet or lower limbs are at risk for amputation.

The students, Chevan Baker and Jann Butler, explained the theory behind the device. “A diabetic patient has abnormal (high) glucose levels in the blood, affecting its flow to the lower extremities. This causes the foot to be colder than average. By outputting temperature values, the patient can see which foot is more affected.”

By monitoring the temperature in their feet, diabetics will have an early warning of potential problems. Since many amputations are the result of a lack of knowledge, the mat and the information shared with it may help prevent tens of thousands of diabetic-related amputations.