Malawi Design Studios: Poly & MUST provide locally sourced PPE & technologies to respond to COVID-19

News   NEST360°   February 19, 2021
PIC: Locally made PPEs
By Associate Professor Theresa Mkandawire, PhD, R.Eng, Professor Address Malata, PhD, MSc, BSc, FAAN, and Will Moyo

We are three women professionals in Malawi, Africa, who oversee university-level invention education. Our universities are home to two engineering design studios—a relatively new concept here that supports hands-on design and innovation by our students. 

When COVID-19 began, we and our design studio teams asked: How do we help? What can we contribute to Malawi? What can our innovators develop locally to help Malawi respond to and prepare for this pandemic? 

As a small, land-locked country, Malawi imports most things. Now with COVID-19-related travel and import restrictions, Malawi’s solutions for personal protection equipment and other technologies for the fight against COVID-19 must be locally sourced. 

Local Malawi creativity and innovation has a home in our design studios at the University of Malawi – The Polytechnic (Poly) and Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST). Our studios provide local university students and faculty with access to 3D printers, laser cutters, supplies, and resources required to help them innovate, design, prototype and deploy new technologies—a revolutionary way to engage students in engineering through hands-on development. The studios are modeled after the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, founded by our partner university, Rice University, in Houston, Texas, and supported by The Lemelson Foundation. 

While our design studios predate COVID-19, they are proving their worth during these times, as they play a critical role for biomedical engineering support for Malawi.


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