Last month, the Engineering Professors Council surveyed their university membership to gauge how they are actively responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. From the responses received, the Council has collated the efforts from both students and staff across engineering disciplines up and down the country; from hackathons to providing expert analysis, there are so many remarkable examples of how those in engineering education have lent a hand during this time of uncertainty.

For example, Swansea University engineers are leading a project using a blast of gas for rapid decontamination of ambulances, cutting cleaning time to under 20 minutes and minimising the risk to workers.

Ulster University engineers have been analysing call data from crisis helplines to show that distressed individuals are contacting crisis helplines for longer calls since the pandemic outbreak. This data is critical in showing the increased need for this helpline support while traditional face-to-face options remain unavailable.

At the University of Birmingham student engineers co-ordinated an online quarantine hackathon – Hack Quarantine – with over 2,500 technologists and scientists across five continents taking part. In the global initiative, participants around the world worked to invent solutions to problems created by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, many engineering departments have been collaborating to mass-produce hundreds of thousands of face shields and other PPE for NHS and other healthcare workers. The University of Hull alone produced and distributed over 21,000 and, by working with industrial partners, engineers at the University have increased output to over 70,000 per week – certified to the highest EU standards – to buoy up the national supply chain. 

Out of over 50 separate engineering departments that responded to the survey, all but two had been actively involved in Covid-19 response activities. Four out of five respondents had produced PPE, one-third had supplied or developed other medical equipment, one-quarter had provided specialist facilities, and over half had provided expert advice, analysis and engineering skills.

EPC President, Professor Colin Turner, commented: “It is humbling to see so many colleagues across the country do what engineers do best: see a problem, get creative and do whatever it takes to solve it. Universities are the anchors of so many towns and cities and we take seriously our civic duty to offer up not only our world-class university engineering facilities and workshops, but also the expertise of leading engineering minds.”

“Engineering academics, technicians and students aren’t just helping address our immediate crisis. Our skills and innovations will help get the nation back on its feet logistically, practically and economically. Engineers will be the keyworkers of the recovery.”

By Stellar Fowler, Engineering Professors Council 

Learn more about the Engineering Professors Council’s survey or if you are working in or attending a university which is contributing to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) response effort, please email us at [email protected] to provide us with more detail, to highlight your projects with our wider community. We know there are many members of our community who are keen to support the response effort of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We have provided some considerations to take into account to ensure you are utilising your expertise in the most effective way.