One Way To Combat The Opioid Crisis? Using Your Fingerprint And A High-Tech Pill Dispenser

Sep 26, 2017

For many Americans struggling with opioid addiction, the problem starts with the abuse of a prescription.

To help tackle this issue, a group of local high school students created a new device.

Most prescriptions come in the familiar, orange canisters. Unfortunately, these are flawed: patients can take too many pills, too frequently and other people can get into the containers very easily.

For last year’s Pennsylvania Governor’s STEM Competition, a team of students at South Fayette High School was tasked with designing a device that could help address a problem being faced by Pennsylvanians.

Michael Kugler, a senior who served as the lead engineer on the project, said that, with the opioid crisis in mind, the team saw plenty of room for improvement in the traditional pill canisters.

“We came up with a pill dispenser for opioids that uses a fingerprint reader and a programmable time dosing schedule," said Kugler.

The dispenser is called the LockRx. Its design is meant to serve as a deterrent to abuse.

“Essentially, if you’re prescribed a medication, it’ll only open with your fingerprint, as well as only dispense a certain amount of the medication at a designated interval that the prescriber mandates," said Kugler.

The team consisted of Kugler, senior Chris Rodi, junior Josh Milteer, sophomores Suraj Bokil, Anish Thangavelu and Jay Abraham, and Ashumi Rokadia, who graduated in June. James Hausman, an English teacher at the high school, served as the team's advisor.

The students submitted the LockRx to the nationwide Digital Promise filmMAKER Challenge last spring. 

LockRx was one of four winning entries, which also another project called from South Fayette called Bag It Pro. The LockRx team was invited to present their product at the World Maker Faire in New York City this past weekend.

(Left to Right) Josh Milteer, Suraj Bokil, James Hausman, Digital Promise Representative Joshua Weisgrau and Chris Rodi.
Credit Shad Wachter / South Fayette School District

Rodi said the group still has further ambitions for the project.

“We’d like to take it to market, and once we take it to market, actually try having an impact on people and society and reducing this opioid addiction rate,” said Rodi.

Currently, there is a patent pending on the LockRx.