Mechatronic systems engineering students displaying their patient-triggered BiPAP machine design.

Mechatronic systems engineering students step up to the COVID-19 PPE challenge

August 26, 2020

With COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic in March, faculty members and students from SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) felt a need to act and help meet the high demand for medical devices and personal protective equipment (PPE). The MSE community was motivated to use their skills to design new solutions to help prevent the exposure and spread of COVID-19, and assist personnel on the front lines.

“When I saw so many students’ eagerness to address the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought we could join forces to help our community by using our mechatronic engineering skills,” says Woo Soo Kim, an MSE professor with expertise in 3D printing.

“When I spoke to the representatives in the SFU MSE Student Society and my colleagues about using this opportunity as a platform for students to gain confidence in their technology-based community engagement, it was met with a positive response.”

In addition to using their 3D printing skills to design devices to help medical professionals wearing their PPE more comfortably, students were tasked with using their engineering design prototyping skills to propose more complex solutions. Inspired by engineers around the world who were converting snorkelling masks into respirators and non-invasive ventilators, students have been using their creativity to develop new solutions to address the medical equipment shortage. With access to limited resources during the pandemic, the student groups worked virtually to focus on their research and engineering design; where possible, physical prototypes were also created. Some students were also able to count their efforts as part of their MSE 312 and MSE 486 course projects.

In August, a panel of mechatronics faculty members evaluated the final submitted projects. Through a virtual event, students were awarded and recognized for their design ingenuity in developing prototypes ranging from various ventilators including an emergency autonomous ventilator to a breath-triggered ventilator. Teams also proposed prototypes for a wristband hand sanitizer dispenser and a patient-triggered BiPAP machine. A full list of projects is below.

This initiative was well-received and went beyond the scope of developing PPE prototypes. It allowed students to be innovative and put their skills into practice for the greater good.

“The huge response from the MSE faculty and students, and the initial help of the MSE Student Society to push this forward reflect their kind and sincere thoughts to help our community” says Kim.

Complete list of winners:

Gold Award

Project Title: Patient-triggered BiPAP Machine

Team: Artur Shad Nik (team lead), Zhen (Lisa) Li, Xilun (Joe) Zhang, Rui Zhou

Supervisor: Jason Wang

Silver Award

Project Title: Emergency Autonomous Ventilator

Team: Harminder Poonian (team lead), Prabhdeep Athwal, Manraj Sangha, Kalana Wijeratna

Supervisor: Ramtin Raksha

Bronze Award

Project Title: Breath-triggered Ventilator for COVID19 Patients

Team: Manson To (team lead), Branislav Cvjetan, Rachel George, Aaron Saigol

Supervisor: Woo Soo Kim

Best Mechanical Prototype Award

Project Title: Special Access Mechanical Ventilator

Team: Armaan Krishnar (team lead), Daniel Lui, Will Richardson, Jack Tran

Supervisor: Woo Soo Kim

Best Practical Design Award

Project Title: 3D Printed Sanitizer Wristband

Team: Shawn Jubilee Liu (team lead), Xue Rong Gao, Joanna Li, Arian Moini

Supervisor: Jason Wang

Best 3D Design Award

Project Title: Simple Ventilator Design - Implementation of 3D Printed Piston Mechanism

Team: Gordon Wu (team lead), Andrew Chan, Edmond Chow

Supervisor: Woo Soo Kim