Designing ventilators using fundamental engineering principles

Ventilator components designed by university students and engineers in a Queensland competition will be further developed and prototyped for evaluation in the state’s hospitals.
The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Design Hackathon brought together 200 engineering students and their mentors to design ventilators to use for the Covid-19 crisis and future epidemics. The idea was to design the components so they could be rapidly manufactured locally in an emergency.
Electrical engineering and business student, Rohit Nunna, said the intensive week-long effort involved working remotely, and for some, at the UQ Innovate Makerspace.
“It’s been a huge positive learning curve. I can now really appreciate the beauty of fundamental engineering principles and how they need to be applied to a complex problem like building a ventilator,” Mr Nunna said.
Professor Ross McAree, Head of the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering at UQ, said engineering is about “working in a team on real-world challenges”, like Covid-19, not just performing well in an exam.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to work with industry professionals to make lasting impact in the community,” Prof McAree said.
The engineering design teams worked with clinical advisor Dr Erich Schulz using ventilator specifications set out by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.
“The best ventilator component designs from the hackathon will be further developed and prototyped for evaluation in Queensland hospitals,” Prof McAree revealed.
UQ has mobilised experts across many fields to tackle the Covid-19 crisis including teams assisting with rapid manufacturing of face shields and masks for use in the state’s hospitals. Prof McAree believes the hackathon will also help to position Queensland for longer-term engineering and manufacturing security involving medical devices.

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