Practising what we teach
Design Technology teacher Joan Brown looks at how schools in Wales became involved in the design and manufacture of PPE, and found themselves at the heart of a global movement.
As the scale of the Coronavirus Pandemic unfolded in March and April, like many other Design and Technology teachers, the DT team at Ysgol Clywedog in Wrexham in Wales, began to think about what we could do to resolve the shortage of medical equipment and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in our community.
We had become aware how designers in Italy and the U.S were working collaboratively through social media platforms in a race against the clock to resolve the overwhelming prospect of a medical equipment shortage which could ultimately lead to an increased loss of life.
Designers were practising what we teach in all our design courses – frantically designing, prototyping and testing different ideas through modelling, 3D printing and laser cutting.
Our instinct as teachers is help, nurture, support, and so naturally we reacted. We weren’t alone: Design and Technology departments across the globe were beginning to mobilise and come up with different design solutions for visors and other PPE depending on what equipment and materials they had.
From teaching to manufacture and distribution
At our school we began using the department’s laser cutter to test different designs but eventually went with a 3-band design, allowing us to cut one visor a minute from a polypropylene sheet.
We also started collaborating with a school in Borneo to develop a hooded visor for nursing homes. In our small scale production we continuously developed our way of working in terms of waste reduction, maximising production and sourcing of materials.
It was great to have support from our enthusiastic Headteacher, Matt Vickery who praised the team for making the face shields and delivering them to a variety of healthcare settings across Wrexham. The school has also donated its stock of science safety goggles to the Maelor Hospital in Wrexham. The feelgood factor in the community was a great morale booster for everyone.
Alongside schools Governor Phil Wynn, who also organised the procurement of the materials, we began working with other schools in the County. Ysgol Rhosnesni, Ysgol Morgan Llywd, The Maelor School, Ysgol Bryn Alun, Ysgol y Grango and St. Joseph’s, who were also working collaboratively to manufacture PPE for local care settings in the area.
Across the county, secondary schools have now made over 3,500 visors that are now being used by frontline staff and other key workers. The numbers are still growing.
Going global: DT and the curriculum
What is amazing is how so many Design and Technology departments in schools globally have been collaborating to address the issue of PPE shortages, making items such as visors, masks and scrubs for healthcare workers.
At a time when the subject has been pushed into the far corners of the curriculum with budgets cuts and all that comes with that, it is wonderful to take part in global movement that illustrates the huge importance of learning and applying the what we teach about the Design Process.
Design and Technology is essential to developing solutions to real life problems. There has never been a better illustration of what is felt across the global Design and Technology community: this subject is crucial and should hold a key place in the curriculum.
Teacher of Design Technology, Ysgol Clywedog, Wrexham, Wales, UK
Images kindly supplied by Joan and all the schools around Wrexham!