PLAYING their part in with the national effort to address challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, students, staff and researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have made their own significant contribution.
Professor Willie Donnelly, President of WIT, spoke of the Institute’s immense pride at their efforts over the past number of weeks. “As well as making very radical changes in our approach to learning, teaching, and assessment, our students and staff have also been working very hard in innovative and creative ways to help in whatever way they can their local communities and the country at this very difficult time.”
WIT’s nursing students are at the forefront to the response. Final year nursing students are playing a vital part in the clinical support of their registered nursing colleagues in University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and across the entire region, while student nurses in years 1-3, along with Applied Health Care students, have been recruited as health care assistants. Prof Donnelly said, “Despite the very difficult circumstances, and despite still being in training, the morale of all nursing students and applied health care students is extremely high and from all the comments coming to me and to staff here they are hugely valued within the health service and by the general public for their contribution at this time.”
Using advanced 3D printing technology, the South East Applied Materials Centre (SEAM) in the School of Engineering has developed a sealed face mask prototype for the clinicians in UHW. They plan to work with a local company on bringing this specialist mask into production very quickly. SEAM has also been involved in manufacturing visors for front-line staff in UHW for the National Ambulance Services. The group is also working actively with a number of bio-medical companies in the region around testing, diagnostics, and certification of parts and products for other devices.
The Department of Science and the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) have provided chemicals, reagents and PPE to UHW laboratory staff and are looking into new methods to increase the speed of testing for the virus. The researchers and staff are also involved in supporting companies involved in the manufacture of other products, including a local chemical company who are manufacturing hand sanitiser.
The Nutrition Research Centre of Ireland (NRCI), based in on WIT’s West Campus, has mobilised an international community of researchers to examine ways of enhancing immunity to the virus with targeted nutrition for the ageing population.
Groups within WIT are also directing their efforts towards the challenges for enterprise. The RIKON group is an approved supplier for the Enterprise Ireland/IDA and LEO funded Business Continuity Supports for Enterprises and will be working with companies. Meanwhile, marketing students have formed a panel that will offer assistance to businesses around transition to a more ‘online’ focused environment.
Professor Donnelly said, “I want to thank all the staff and students of WIT who have really responded proactively and creatively to the national call. This is WIT’s 50th year. While we certainly did not anticipate this would be how it would be marked, it is truly a demonstration of all that has made WIT a special place to study and work that we see such a fantastic, generous response from students and staff to the needs of local communities and businesses.”
WIT is also in partnership with UPMC under the direction of the HSE has set up a testing facility for Covid-19 at the WIT Arena.
Dr Sinéad O’Halloran demonstrating a 3D Ultimaker printer at SEAM. The WIT research centre has developed a sealed face mask prototype. Picture: Patrick Browne
Waterford IT. Picture: Lafayette