Schools and faculties team up to fight COVID-19 outbreak

Saturday 18 April 2020

Through fast reaction of actors of the USAID's ENABLE BiH project, in primary and highs schools and faculties in BiH, protective gear to fight COVID-19 is being produced on daily basis.

While the classrooms are empty because of the COVID-19 threat, professors and teachers in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) teamed up to provide help to the first responders through production of protective face shields that will protect them from the droplets that transmit infections.

Inspired by the actions of the makers from other countries and using equipment donated by the United States Agency for International Development in BiH (USAID BiH) through Enhancing and Advancing Basic Learning and Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ENABLE BiH) project, they mobilized schools’ 3D printers to make and distribute free of charge the much needed shields for medical personnel and other frontline workers.

ENABLE BiH team has been coordinating efforts with all stakeholders and experts across the country to optimize the 3D printers in the fight against COVID-19 spread.

Fast reaction thanks to earlier experiences and knowledge

Computer Sciences teacher Nijad Salihovic, STEM teaching coordinator for the ENABLE BiH project, found himself in Banjaluka Gymnasium at the time the schools were closed down due to global pandemic, where he was conducting training for teaching staff in the area of Arduino, 3D printing and Google Classroom. Upon returning to his home school, Ninth Primary School Maoca, Brcko District, he immediately organized a workshop on online teaching for his colleagues from the school, and since he has been working with his students for five years using the „Flipped classroom“ methodology, all his  students ware already registered on the online platform.

Under the influence of the new situation, teacher Nijad looked for information about the coronavirus and thought about how he can contribute to reducing the consequences.

"I had to do something, I can't just sit with my arms crossed. From what I saw, I realized that the biggest problem would be if members of medical staff became infected. I decided to design a face shield and suggest to the school administration that we use 3D printer that we received through the ENABLE BiH project to make the field shields. I did the design in Tinkercad and posted it as "public", so if anyone likes it, they can use it freely. I started printing and the first delivery of 10 shields was sent to Brcko Hospital," explains Nijad.

As Banjaluka became one of the hot spots of the epidemic, teacher Nijad sent the design he made to the Google Classroom of Banjaluka Gymnasium, so they could start with production as well. Gymnasium responded quickly and on the first day they printed three shields.

By the time this text was concluded, on April 10, Ninth Primary School Maoca had delivered over 75 face shields. This school will not stop there - the chemistry teacher expanded the project to create disinfectants. Another idea is to use Arduino to make a non-contact dispenser for hand disinfection. Meanwhile, the improved face shield design at Tinkercad has been downloaded by 28 people from around the world.

Unexpected testing of newly acquired skills

Banjaluka Gymnasium received training in working on a 3D printer only on March 10 this year, but circumstances were such that they were very quickly able to put the newly acquired skills into practice, for the common good. The action was initiated by four professors from the Gymnasium, and they were joined by one student who has a 3D printer at home, so he creates the face shields in his home. The delivery of the first 10 shields went to the Center "Protect Me", an educational institution for children with disabilities.

Professor Tamara Jagodic tells us that this work is the result of incredible circumstances, because on March 10, professors received training to work on a 3D printer, and on the same day they received the news that the school was closing.

"We have been able to learn enough to put the printer into operation with the help of colleagues who have experience. Our trainer Nijad Salihovic from Brcko, as well as our colleagues from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, provided great help. They helped us with the design of the model itself, so now we have reached a capacity of 4 visors a day," says Professor Tamara Jagodic, adding: "We hope that our capacity will be 20 to 30 visors a day. After health facilities in Banjaluka, we will check the situation in other cities and work to the best of our ability."

She says that teachers and professors have practically no free time in the circumstances in which they work, because the are available to their students almost 24 hours a day.

"During the day we are available to them for their tasks and questions, and during the night we review their homework, write reports, plans, prepare classes. We were unprepared for this situation, but we had to adapt in a short period of time and be ready to meet all of our students' questions. Because of this, the time is short. With the help of other on-call workers, we were able to come to an agreement that we start the machines, put together the visors, so that we can get back to our commitments with regard to distance learning," said Professor Tamara.

ENABLE BiH model schools give their contribution

Both Ninth Primary School Maoca and Banjaluka Gymnasium are among the 12 STEM model schools whose teaching staff had the opportunity to participate in specialist trainings through the USAID's ENABLE BiH project, and where modern STEM cabinets were equiped, including 3D printers.

Meanwhile, STEM model schools Primary School Vasa Cubrilovic from Gradiška and Primary School Zalik from Mostar also joined the production of protective shields. Primary School Amer Cenanovic Ilidza, Third Gymnasium Sarajevo, Gymnasium Vaso Pelagic from Brcko, Primary School Petra Bakule Mostar, Gymnasium Filip Visnjic from Bijeljina, Primary School Sveti Sava from Doboj and Primary School Petar Petrovic Njegos from Eastern Ilidza have outsourced their 3D printers to the closest institutions of higher education that built their 3D printer farms and produce larger quantities of shields daily.


Teaching Assistants at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in Banjaluka initiated production

Experts from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the University of Banjaluka work on a daily basis to produce protective face shields using a 3D printer.

The initiative, started by young assistants from the Department of Computer and Information Science, is also supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Higher Education and the Information Society. After prototyping and initial testing, the company began its batch production, which now includes about a dozen other employed laboratory assistants, teaching assistants and professors. Production takes place at the Faculty's STEM laboratory, which was opened as part of USAID's ENABLE BiH project. There are currently five 3D printers in operation, one owned by the Faculty, with the remaining four coming from STEM model schools.

"Currently, 14 visors are being produced daily, and the plan is to further expand production in the coming period by increasing capacity and optimizing production. So far, about 30 visors have been delivered to the University Clinical Center of Republika Srpska, and a consignment of 12 visors has been sent to Doboj. Several visors have been given to healthcare professionals who are engaged in working with patients in newly formed accommodation for persons positive to the coronavirus in the Student dormitory, as well as the Pediatricians Association,” said Head of the Chatedra of Computer and Information Science, prof. Dr Dragan Matic.

The role of the business sector

Dozens of engineering firms have also become involved in the production of protective equipment for people and institutions that work directly with the vulnerable persons. Among them is Intera Technology Park from Mostar, also one of the partners of the ENABLE BiH project. In cooperation with the Student Assembly of the University of Mostar, they began to design visors for the needs of Mostar hospitals and health centers. Their printer farm was joined by a 3D printer from the Center for Technical Culture in Mostar, also donated through the ENABLE BiH project.


Save the Children started implementing the project Enhancing and Advancing Basic Learning and Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ENABLE BiH) in September 2016, supported by the United States Agency for International Development in BiH (USAID BiH). ENABLE BiH intends to ensure that students in BiH acquire the key competences necessary to participate in a knowledge-based economy and become carriers of economic development in the future.