Medical workers and other frontline workers need adequate equipment as basic protection in the fight against the pandemic, to reduce risks while serving those infected and in the greatest need. Some of the equipment that can help reduce the risk are plastic visors, which can largely prevent the virus from reaching the face. The visor is one of the products that is relatively simple to manufacture with the help of a 3D printer, and is used to protect medical staff from drip infection. In addition, it can be disinfected and reused several times, with medical personnel wearing protective masks under the visor.
The initiative for producing protective face shields has been launched in several parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has identified and linked the makers. In order to accelerate the production of protective equipment, the UNDP project “Economic Governance for Growth – EGG”, funded by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, has procured additional equipment for the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sarajevo. This equipment includes four new 3D printers, filaments and raw material for the production of protective equipment, as well as a machine for testing the mechanical properties of materials.
„We will produce protective equipment for all in need as long as there is a demand for that. We started with making of protective visors, however we can also produce mask ties as well as respirator blades, if required”, says Adi Pandžić, senior assistant at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Sarajevo.
Although the equipment will be primarily used to produce protective visors as part of the response to COVID-19 pandemic, after the crisis, the Faculty will use it to equip the Norwegian Government’s Polymeric Materials Testing Laboratory.
„There are not many researchers in Bosnia and Herzegovina that focus on researching polymers. We would like to introduce new subjects in the curricula that would focus on this, and the Lab would be used for teaching, research, innovation and development. This is a very important step in the teaching process, as we didn’t have resources until now. Polymers are an important part of the industry nowadays”, says Pandžić.
Networking of MakerSpaces across Bosnia and Herzegovina and the use of 3D printers in schools and other educational institutions enabled securing visors for numerous healthcare facilities.
Wanting to contribute with their skills, students and professors at the Orasje Vocational Secondary School began producing protective visors for medical staff at the end of March. Last year, this school was supported through “Economic Government for Growth – EGG” project- As part of the support, the school received various STEM equipment, including 3D printers. With the support of Professor Alen Aljukic, the students of this school started designing visors made with 3D printers and intended for employees of the Orasje County Hospital and Orasje Health Center.
Following their example, elementary school from Domaljevac also initiated the production of plastic visors with 3D printers. The first phase included 10 visors for the needs of Domaljevac Health Centre workers. They used 3D printers from the STEM lab, earlier equipped with the help of EGG Project.
The equipment in the STEM classroom, which was procured through the EGG Project, was also used by Tešanj Elementary School “Huso Hodžić” to combat COVID-19. Over the past week, they have produced and delivered over 100 visors for the medical staff of the Tešanj Health Center, the Tešanj General Hospital and the Maglaj Health Center. The school will continue making visors, as well as several other useful products. With the support of the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and UNDP, elementary schools “Ćamil Sijarić” from Nemila and “Vladimir Nazor” from Odžak, and the Zenica Technical School, also invested their efforts in producing the visors.
Gradac Primary School “Dr. Safvet-beg Bašagić” joined the visors manufacturing initiative. Using 3D printing technology, the teachers of this school, with the support of the school administration, produced the first pieces according to the free-of-charge model by the Czech company Prusa. The visors were delivered to the medical staff at the Gradačac Health Center, local pharmacies and public institutions. In 2019, UNDP purchased 3D printers, Arduino kits, m-bots and other equipment for this school to enhance regular teaching and form new extracurricular activities. Also, four Safvet-beg Bašagić teachers underwent five-day STEM training on which they based a workshop program at their school.
Cooperation with the European Union
In the pandemic circumstances, local companies step in to provide for part of the growing and immediate needs of health system in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The production of protective visors for doctors and nurses is currently underway at the premises of Jusri in Potkozara near Gorazde. This activity was supported by the European Union through the project “Response to COVID-19”, implemented by UNDP in cooperation with other UN agencies and international partners. Instead of 3D printing technology, Jusri uses its plastic injection molding capabilities and resources to produce visors as quickly as possible.
The importance of STEM education
Lately, STEM fields and education have become increasingly popular in everyday jargon. STEM is an acronym from English which stands for four areas, namely Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The focus is on hands-on work, increasing children’s interest in technical and scientific occupations, and developing communication and collaboration skills, as well as enhancing children’s confidence in their problem-solving approach.
Organized STEM education empowers children to think practically and act, develops their logical skills and creates the basis for further successful and applicable education. By investing in STEM education and training from early on, it promotes a society that values and applies knowledge, and thus strengthens the competitiveness of the workforce in the global market, which has long been on the priority list of many developed countries.
In the context of a pandemic and the need for local sourcing and manufacturing, it is precisely the STEM knowledge that has proven crucial to fighting the virus and protecting those who are most exposed.