5 ways engineers are battling COVID-19

Engineers don’t just work on big infrastructure – their problem-solving skills can be applied to medicine as well. Image: Shutterstock

From 3D-printed door openers to medical robots, engineers around the world are finding creative ways to fight the spread of COVID-19

There are many types of engineers, and they’re all problem-solvers. Whether it’s repurposing something old or inventing something new, engineers have been working hard to keep us safe during the global pandemic.

1. Mechatronic engineering

Using robots to check for COVID-19 symptoms

Mechatronic engineers at Invento Robotics in India built a talking robot which can measure a patient’s temperature, ask about symptoms and video link to doctors through a tablet on its chest. Mitra was meant to help out in nursing homes, but has easily adapted to COVID-19 screening in hospitals and offices.

2. Materials science and engineering

Muthu Vellayappan postgraduate student
Muthu Vellayappan is a
Postgraduate Student with the skills to fight COVID.

Creating a 3D-printed tool to open doors and push buttons

Touching surfaces is something to be avoided in our new COVID-19-normal world. Engineering student at Monash University in Melbourne Muthu Vellayappan has created a plastic “safety key” to help keep hands clean. It has grooves to lock on to L- and U-shaped door handles and a bump perfect for punching buttons at pedestrian crossings and in lifts.

3. Chemical engineering

Designing a heated face mask to slow and deactivate COVID

Face masks have helped keep COVID-19 in check, and chemical engineers at MIT in the US want to take them to a new level. They’ve prototyped a battery-powered, reusable mask with a heated copper mesh wrapped in insulating fabric. The heating system is designed to slow and deactivate COVID-19 in the air breathed in and out by the mask’s wearer.

4. Optoelectronic engineering

Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to detect people with high temperatures in crowds

Not all COVID-19 patients have fevers, but a quick and reliable way to find people
with high temperatures in crowded airports and hospitals could help keep others safe. In Scotland, engineers from Thales are testing a system that teams AI with thermal imaging. The system uses an app and webcams to scan people’s faces for temperature, and machine learning to improve as it gathers data.

5. Biomedical engineering

Using a “lung on a chip” to test drugs and prevent COVID-19 

A team at Harvard University in the US used an artificial lung the size of a USB stick to show that an antimalarial drug may also help prevent COVID-19. They also designed a pseudovirus that mimics the virus which causes COVID-19. This virus can be safely used for research in laboratories that aren’t set up to study dangerous diseases.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2021.


Nadine Cranenburgh

Author: Nadine Cranenburgh

Nadine is an electrical and environmental engineer who works as a freelance writer and editor. She loves creating articles and content about exciting and complex technology.


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