Our team is made up of professors and students of the Digital Fabrication Laboratory based at the Institute of Technology of Madrid CEU University (Fab Lab Madrid CEU). Our Fab Lab offers academic programs such as the Advance Diploma in Digital Fabrication for Architectural Design, the Master of Advance Architecture or the Fab Academy Program, in collaboration with the Fab Foundation and the Center for Bits and Atoms of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We are also developing several research projects, such as the NEWTON project (Networked Labs for Training in Sciences and Technologies of Information and Communication) financed in the call Horizon 2020 (H2020) in the Framework Program for Research in Innovation of the European Union.

In the last few weeks we have had to adapt our academic programs to the emergency caused by the Coronavirus. Now, we are teaching online classes through different platforms to our students and at the same time, given the situation, we are also taking part in a citizen initiative that connects thousands of volunteers to produce medical equipment to be donated to health centers, hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies and shops.

In order to attend to both fronts (on the one hand, to facilitate our students the use of digital fabrication machines for their academic projects and, on the other hand, to keep the production of sanitary equipment running), we are starting a new project that allow us to design and fabricate medical equipment designed by our students. It is called: Open Classroom for Co-design and Digital Fabrication to produce protective equipment for Coronavirus.

What it does

The Open Classroom for Co-creation and Digital Fabrication connects professors, researchers and instructors with students of our academic programs that design medical equipment and volunteers who manufacture protective tools for Coronavirus.

Co-design: Students of our academic programs are working in the analysis, design, implementation and prototyping of protective equipment for medical use such as shields, masks, glasses, helmets, etc. seeking the optimization of the protective equipment by proposing different materials and technologies that could allow the manufacture of higher quality PPE to be made quickly to respond to the high demand for sanitary equipment during the emergency. Professors have adapted the content of the courses to focus on the medical equipment, so that they can teach the tools to fabricate and take advantage of the products designed by students, that are part of the solutions that are being developed by universities and individuals in the context that we are facing.

Digital Fabrication: Volunteers who have 3D printers in their homes or digital fabrication spaces, as Fab Labs, makerspaces o hackerspaces with access to laser cutters, milling machines, 3D printers and molding and casting technologies, produce the prototypes designed by students and provide feedback to improve the PPEs. Instructors are also available so that they can solve any questions or doubts to the volunteers and the feedback received by instructors are useful to implement the designs.

How we built it

During the last weeks Fab Lab Madrid CEU’s team have been adapting the contents of the digital fabrication courses to be able to continue teaching online and. At the same time, we have joined CoronavirusMakers, a citizen initiative that connects thousands of people around the world to be able to coordinate the production and distribution of medical protective equipment for Coronavirus to health centers, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, as well as to high-risk groups such as the police, firefighters, and civil protection personnel.

We are using all the software and hardware available in a Digital Fabrication Laboratory to design and fabricate, as well as different platforms to be connected with students, researches, professors, volunteers and instructors, such as Telegram, Blackboard, Teams, Whatsapp, Instagram, Zoom, Twitter and Facebook.

Challenges we ran into

• Technological and educational innovation that starts from a confidence in other ways of learning and motivating new generations, valuing experience and learning by projects.

• Using online teaching platforms that allow students to continue training during the confinement period caused by Coronavirus.

• Promotion of transversal activities among students from various disciplines, such as design, architecture and engineering.

• Acquisition of digital fabrication skills and its application in collaboration with volunteers for the provision of sanitary equipment in hospitals in a situation of lack of protective equipment.

• Comprehensive and interdisciplinary training through subjects from different areas of knowledge linked to digital fabrication, seeking the integrated design of projects generated by students and volunteers that came from different disciplines.

Accomplishments that we are proud of

• Implementation of training skills linked to the current state of emergency to respond to the demands for medical material to protect from Coronavirus.

• Linking academic programs with volunteer activities to involve professors, researchers, instructors, students and volunteers in the design and fabrication of PPE for Coronavirus.

• Inclusion of Service-Learning approaches where the academic curriculum is combined with community service to enrich the educational experience, teach citizenship, and to provide a pragmatic, progressive learning experience while meeting societal needs.

• The design and digital fabrication of thousands of protective equipment that have been donated to hospitals, health centers, pharmacies, nursing homes, as well as to high-risk groups such as the police, firefighters, and civil protection personnel.

What's next for Open Classroom: Co-creation and Digital Fabrication

Unfortunately, we are still in the early stages of the pandemic and protective equipment is still required by hospitals and health centers. We will continue to maintain the collaboration network until the demand for protective equipment disappears.

In the successive phases of the state of emergency, people will be able to leave their homes and begin to join their work, so we think that it will be necessary to provide people who cannot access protective equipment against Coronavirus.

With the recovery of normality, devices will be necessary to help us maintain protection against the Coronavirus, that will have to be designed and manufactured and that will be part of our lives until the situation is completely normalized. We will continue working on materializing ideas and devices that help prevent the spread of the disease.

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