Coronavirus face guard production in Engineering FabLab

Pupil power as schools support University of Hull COVID-19 face shield project

Sixth-form students are distributing more than 13,000 face shields as part of the University of Hull’s project to provide vital equipment in the region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will bring the number of face shields dispatched by the University’s partnership project to provide PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to a total of 21,000.

An innovative project designed to identify and supply organisations that are reporting difficulties in accessing PPE stock from their normal suppliers has been set up – drawing on the networks and enthusiasm of the University’s partner schools and colleges.

Fiona Walkley, a marketing lecturer at Hull University Business School who is helping co-ordinate the project, said: “We wanted to reach into communities in the region to get the face shields out into care homes, funeral directors, GP surgeries and any other health/social care organisations that may still need PPE – and we realised this was a way to do it.

“It helps those who need the face shields – and it also helps those sixth formers to build their skills and give back to their communities at this important time.”

“We have had a great response to the project from the schools: the sixth formers and careers teams have really seen the benefit for everyone.”

Teams of sixth-formers from 14 schools and colleges in the region from Grimsby to Whitby have risen to the challenge – led by a member of staff from the University’s Business School, Engineering or school liaison team.

The schools and colleges have been conducting virtual meetings, generating a list of those organisations in need of PPE, and arranging delivery.

Working to specific areas and post codes, the students have identified and contacted the care homes, funeral directors, GP surgeries and other health/social care organisations.

Dr Walkley said: “The response from the schools and colleges has been phenomenal – and I am so impressed with the way the sixth form students have adopted very professional methods of working. It has been a delight to work with them.

“Their careers advisors tell us that the students' involvement in the project helps develop their employability skills at a time when the work experience they'd normally be involved in is not possible. It is great for them to have the chance to volunteer and work on this kind of live business project.”

Sixth Form students meet on Zoom with Sixth Form Pastoral Manager Alex Bulger and Area Lead Karen Arundel from the Schools and Colleges Engagement team at the University of Hull

Lydia Black, a sixth form student at Hull Collegiate, said: "It’s great that through this project my fellow team members and I have been able to use our newfound free time to help others despite being stuck at home.

“I can certainly speak for the whole of my team when I say that this project has not only helped others protect themselves as we enter a new phase of lockdown, but has also helped us.

"Through contacting different businesses, companies and key workers, it has given us major organisational and communicative skills, as well as the obvious buzz of helping others.

“It has also encouraged me to become more active when it comes to other volunteer work, so when the next opportunity to help comes around, I will certainly say yes after this experience.

“I am so grateful to have been given such an amazing platform by Hull University that has allowed me help many people in my local area."

The project also gives these sixth formers interested in studying business or engineering as a degree an early taste of the kind of learning experience offered at University.

Dr Walkley said: “A distinctive feature of Hull University Business School is that it uses an authentic business learning approach, so students are given opportunities to apply their learning to live projects like this PPE project.

“This enables students to develop important 21st-century skills such as working in online teams and project management.

“Likewise, the Engineering team believes in giving students hands on experience to enable them to develop the skills needed to enter this exciting industry by working with clinicians and in a laboratory setting.”

More than £80,000 has been raised for the project from a University of Hull appeal to fund additional materials to meet high demand for the face shields from the NHS and other healthcare organisations in the region.

Over 1,000 donations from businesses, graduates, staff, students and friends of the University have been made.

The University received a very generous donation of £50,000 from a trust fund established by AB Graphic International Ltd, a Bridlington company – which directly funding 25,000 face shields that will be donated free to NHS and healthcare workers.

Coronavirus face guard production in Engineering FabLab

Nathan Brown, senior lecturer in the department of Engineering at the University of Hull and lead on this project, said: “Across the University, we have worked together to develop the designs, increase production capacity, raise funds to invest in additional materials, manage a dynamic supply chain and organise distribution.

“It has been great to see everyone come together in this time of crisis, demonstrating the commitment to the sense of social responsibility which engineers hold as a core value.

“To see the schools and colleges in the region getting involved is fantastic. It is a great example of what can be achieved when everyone gets behind a project.”

Partners in this project include Advanced Plastics, WHW Plastics and the University’s Aura Innovation Centre, Hull University Business School, as well as schools and colleges.

Schools and colleges taking part include: Ron Dearing UTC, Engineering UTC Northern Lincolnshire, Holderness Academy & Sixth Form College, Hull Collegiate School, Beverley Joint 6th, South Hunsley Sixth Form College, Whitby Sixth Form, Cottingham Sixth Form College, St Mary’s College Sixth Form, Hornsea HSLC Sixth Form, Driffield Sixth Form, John Leggott Sixth Form College, Franklin Sixth Form College, Headlands School Sixth Form.

The University’s engineering team has developed and produced the face shields using digital engineering techniques such as 3D printing.

While this gave a rapid response to the emergency – these techniques are not suitable to address the national ongoing demand.

Collaborating with a local industry partner, Advanced Plastics, the team has increased capacity to over 70,000 per week – certified to the highest EU standards – to buoy up the national supply chain.

The crowdfunding campaign has been co-ordinated by the Development and Alumni Relations Office at the University.

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