“Reality check” with DIY CPR manikins

Thursday, 03.11.2022

Reading time 5 mins

Our intention with DYI CPR Manikins? Give people all over the world access to basic CPR Training at the lowest possible cost, with material that can be found in every household. Sounds simple, but are those DIY CPR Manikins really practical in everyday use to learn CPR?

We have built our concept along an approach called design thinking, a way of problem-solving that puts user needs in the centre, whilst encouraging creativity and collaboration within a multi-disciplinary team. By connecting researchers with users, we will be able to create a validating and iterative process to further improve and develop the DIY CPR Manikins and their usage. To kick off this collaboration, we have started to perform so-called “reality checks”, where users build one of our manikins and try to learn CPR with it.

Below you can read some  experience reports from two “reality checks” performed this summer in Switzerland. 

My DIY CPR Manikin experience

DIY CPR Manikins – for the last five months they have been constantly in my mind; but what is it like to practice with such a DIY CPR Manikin? I am not quite a newcomer to CPR – I attended a First Aid course years ago, learned CPR, mouth to mouth ventilation and even how to handle a defibrillator (AED). But as you know, knowledge fades over time if never used… Another good reason to do some practice!

I chose to try the “homemade toilet paper CPR trainer”, a very simple DIY CPR Manikin made of materials that we all have at home and with  building instructions that are even easier than the ones from IKEA. I decided to practice CPR with toilet paper rolls and the lid of a jar.

Building this manikin is not rocket science:

However, the correct execution of CPR is more difficult than the construction:

“Practice at a rate of 100 – 120 compressions per minute…“

To achieve this rate, I could count and stop the time, but I have heard that there is an easier way: there are songs that already have the correct rhythm. Hmmm, sometimes music literally saves lives. Let me google: For a song to be a CPR song, it needs around 100 – 120 “beats per minute” (BPM). There are various options: Probably the best-known song that has potentially saved the most lives is “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. Other potential life savers are “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “Rock your body” by Justin Timberlake or “Atemlos durch die Nacht” by Helene Fischer. There is even a Spotify playlist from the New York Presbyterian Hospital and a resuscitation song on TikTok. My sisters’ kids chose “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem for my practice today.  

The next point to consider:

“Press 5-6 cm deep and allow full recoil of the chest”

How do you think this works on two rolls of toilet paper? Hard to say, but my manikin should, thanks to the lid of a jar, give me feedback if I press hard enough.

I will just give it a try!

Phew! It is exhausting! I have only lasted a bit more than a minute now – despite the motivational music of EMINEM. Imagine what it means to continue until help arrives – in 15 or even 30 minutes. Unfortunately, my manikin also suffered a little. After my pushing efforts, the two toilet paper rolls no longer really want to regain their original shape… So “allow full recoil of the chest” was less and less possible the longer my practice continued.

My conclusion:

Firstly, in this short training section I received very valuable information around the importance of CPR and the correct behaviour in case of an emergency.

Although my manikin fell apart immediately when not held together and did not look very realistic – it takes a lot of imagination to see a person’s chest in the construct – the construction was easy and fast.

The rhythm of 100 – 120 compressions per minute can be practiced well – especially if you use the appropriate music as a support. In addition, you also get a sense of how exhausting the whole thing is!

Depth and full recoil of the chest are difficult to learn with my chosen manikin though. I doubt that my toilet paper rolls really needed the same force as a real chest would to get the depth of 5 – 6 cm. And allowing full recoil was just not possible due to the “tired toilet paper rolls”.

All in all, one thing is certain for me: it is very easy to build this DIY CPR Manikin and practice with it. The time spent to build, and practice is short with approx. 5 minutes and well invested. Finally, with very little effort, I now have a good feeling of being at least a little prepared for the hopefully never-arriving emergency.

Would you like to recreate this DIY CPR Manikin?

The Manikin is called “homemade toilet paper CPR trainer”. You can find the building instructions here:


A group of researchers – R. Ohle, M. Moskalyk, E. Boissonneault, K. Simmons und S. McIsaac – tested the “homemade toilet paper CPR trainer”. Here you find the corresponding article:


“Reality Check” with the Lifesaving Kids program in Sempach, Switzerland

As part of the “Lifesaving-Kids” program, a pilot project of the SLRG, which was carried out in the summer of 2022 at Lake Sempach, we were able to do another “reality check” with our DIY CPR Manikins.

The “Lifesaving-Kids” program aims to bring 1st- to 4th-graders closer to the lake, nature and to lifeguarding. Together with their leaders, who are experienced lifeguards from SLRG Sempachersee, the kids made and tried out two different manikins:

  • a manikin made of a roll of toilet paper, a T- shirt and a towel
  • a manikin made of a PET bottle, a T-shirt, rubber bands and paper

The evaluation after the “reality check” showed that the children displayed lots of joy and interest in making the manikins and trying them out. Some children had some trouble building the manikin: stuffing the T-shirt through the toilet paper roll was not easy. But practicing, especially the compressions, went very well. The kids were surprised how tough such a resuscitation is.

What was difficult for everyone was to establish the reference to reality, since one manikin in particular did not look like a human body at all, but rather like a “square folded towel”. The kids couldn’t make the link to an unconscious person.

The two instructors involved gave us the tip to use a skin-coloured T-shirt, add a cardboard head or paint nipples – any measures that help make the manikins a little more “human-like”. Thus, it would be easier for the children to establish a connection to an unconscious person and to find the right pressure point.

Would you like to recreate those DIY CPR Manikins?

The first Manikin is called “Homemade towel and toilet roll mannequin”. You can find the building instructions here:


A group of researchers – G. Wanner, A. Osborne and C.H. Greene – tested the “Homemade towel and toilet roll mannequin”. Here you find the corresponding article:


The second Manikin is called “your own manikin”. You can find the building instructions here:


So far, this Manikin has not been tested yet.

Have you also tried building a DIY CPR Manikin? We would love to receive your experience report. 😊

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