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Worcester Polytechnic Institute Partner, PASET, UniPort On COVID-19 Equipment Production

A collaborative cross-continental initiative between Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, USA, Nairobi-based Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), and researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, University of Port Harcourt, has resulted in the local production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

Unveiling the equipment and accessories which have already started production of customised Face Shield Brackets and N-95 nose mask, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Professor Regina Ogali, showered praises on the UniPort research team linking up with their US and Nairobi-based colleagues to actualise the venture aimed at combating the pandemic on campus and Rivers State.

Professor Ogali made the remarks when she led Principal Officers on an inspection of specialised equipment donated by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute at the ETF Building, University Park on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. The WPI is a partnering organisation of PASET. The equipment donated included Ender 3 Pro 3D Printer, spools of Ikg PLA filament, spool of 750g flex filament, boxes of 100 transparencies, set of HEPA filter sampler and smooth cast 65D molding kit.

 

“I am excited that you are producing the protective items that would assist in the fight against COVID-19, and you are doing it while your colleagues are on strike. It will be wonderful if we also produce ventilators and donate them to the isolation centres in Rivers State and beyond. This step is highly commendable, and I want to thank the Dean and staff of the Faculty of Engineering who participated in this laudable initiative,” the Deputy Vice Chancellor, who currently oversees the affairs of the University told the research team.

Earlier, Coordinator of PASET in the University, Professor Sunday Ikensikimama, described the equipment donation by the World Polytechnic Institute as one of the many benefits from the University’s partnership with PASET. He expressed hope that the partnership would come with more grants through the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund, which he described as a flagship programme of PASET aimed at strengthening the study of Science, Technology and Engineering in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The research headed by Dr Celestine Ebieto with Dr Lekpa David of the Department of Anatomy, also comprised of Mrs Henrrietta Asuzu-Samuel (Biomedical Technology, School of Science Laboratory Technology), Nnorom Obinichi and Okechukwu Edeh, both of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. We signed an agreement to produce and donate face shield brackets and N-95 nose masks free of charge to the University community and other health facilities in Rivers State. We can produce up to 400 face shield brackets from the packs that came with the equipment,” the Coordinator told the Principal Officers.

In his remarks, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Ogbonna Joel, disclosed plans to commercialise the equipment after meeting the initial agreement for free production to the University community and its environs. Professor Joel called for support from the administration to take the venture to the next level, adding that it had in-built capacity to generate revenue for the University.

In his speech, project team leader, Dr Ebieto, said that the team consisted of researchers from related fields who received training on production of ventilators and PPEs. He further disclosed that the next phase of production would be focused on robotics that would assist health personnel to diagnose ailments with minimum patient contact in the post COVID-19 era.

It would be recalled that the UniPort team participated in an eight-week online training that commenced on Saturday, May 9, 2020, with the aim of acquiring requisite skills on the use of 3D-printing techniques to produce PPEs and ventilator parts. “The printing of the PPEs started on Monday, June 8, 2020. We have already started printing face shield brackets and N-95 nose masks, some of which have been distributed to the University Management and the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Health Centre,” Dr Ebieto added.

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