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Change the world


Students and staff in the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology (EBET) have been playing an incredible role in tackling COVID-19 challenges.

The Centre for Community Technologies worked on numerous ICT solutions over COVID-19. These included an online COVID-19 case management tool, a contact trace-and-track tool, and an online screening tool for teachers to use to help keep schools safe.

The Faculty’s Advanced Engineering Design Group (AEDG), for example, built scarce medical equipment that included a ventilator, intubation unit and accessories in the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These are not random engineering projects which may not go anywhere; they are geared for the real world,” explained AEDG project manager Clive Hands of the projects his students volunteer to work on. “These projects were born out of the local government hospitals battling to get equipment, as the pandemic has been dire in the Eastern Cape.”

As the province fought its rapidly rising infection rates, students and staff almost immediately started supply desperately needed personal protective equipment, as well as in-theatre and in-ICU devices, to Livingstone Hospital in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth).

AEDG students, together with CustomWorks and Shibah Engineering, whose director, Cecil Frost, is a Mandela Uni Mech Eng alumni, designed an intubation box or “hood” for patients to use during the intubation procedure.

By stopping the aerosolised droplets from patients potentially infected with the virus from becoming airborne, the box shields the medical staff in theatre during the procedure. Additional smaller jobs also emerged, such as 3D prints of an adapter for the vacuum extractor, suction waste collector connectors and an extraction cover for a surgical saw device.

The Salutaris Ventilator Project was another rapid response when a student-run start-up, Hedge-SA, created a low-cost, easy-to manufacture, automated resuscitator to help address the ventilator shortage.

The current Salutaris design is a non-invasive ventilator but, as the year progressed, the National Ventilator Project called for an invasive ventilator to help patients with more severe breathing difficulties.

AEDG stepped up to this also, and Hands sees significant scope for research and development to advance the device.

More than one EBET entity has been working on ventilators: its innovation hub eNtsa has been working with a consortium of companies and Walter Sisulu University to reverse-engineer and manufacture the Nuffield 200 ventilator system.


STUDENTS STEP UP: The Salutaris ventilator team is from left, Kelvin Langwani, Neo Mabunda and brothers Zain and Zaahid Imran

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057