Students, staff and researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have been making a significant contribution over the last number of weeks to address some of the many challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prof Willie Donnelly, President of WIT, said “We are immensely proud to make a contribution to this national effort. As well as making very radical changes in our approach to learning, teaching, and assessment, our students and staff have also been working very hard in innovative and creative ways to help in whatever way they can their local communities and the country at this very difficult time.”
Professor Donnelly said, “I want to thank all the staff and students of WIT who have really responded proactively and creatively to the national call. This is WIT’s 50th year. While we certainly did not anticipate this would be how it would be marked, it is truly a demonstration of all that has made WIT a special place to study and work that we see such a fantastic, generous response from students and staff to the needs of local communities and businesses.”
Students’ role highly valued
At the forefront of the response are WIT’s nursing students. Final year nursing students are playing a vital part in the clinical support of their registered nursing colleagues in University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and across the entire region while student nurses years 1-3, along with Applied Health Care students, have been recruited as health care assistants. Many have been employed in nursing homes, bringing their skills and support for a very vulnerable sector.
Message from our 3rd Year Nursing Students in UHW. Really proud of our students who are around the region on the front line with great support from their nursing and MDT colleagues #stayhome #flattenthecurve #thankyou @waterfordit @UHW_Waterford @unaobrien1973 @trishepsom pic.twitter.com/ljYstsyhPA— WIT Nursing & Healthcare (@NursingWit) April 4, 2020
Prof Donnelly said, “Despite the very difficult circumstances, and despite still being in training, the morale of all nursing students and applied health care students is extremely high and from all the comments coming to me and to staff here they are hugely valued within the health service and by the general public for their contribution at this time.”
Meanwhile, marketing students with digital marketing experts have come together to form a panel that will offer assistance to businesses that need to rapidly transition to a more ‘online’ focused environment.
WIT’s research groups are also making a practical contribution to dealing with the emergency. Using advanced 3D printing technology, the South East Applied Materials Centre (SEAM) in the School of Engineering has developed a sealed face mask prototype for the clinicians in UHW. They plan to work with a local company on bringing this specialist mask into production very quickly. SEAM has also been involved in manufacturing visors for front-line staff in UHW for the National Ambulance Services. The group is also working actively with a number of biomedical companies in the region around testing, diagnostics, and certification of parts and products for other devices.
The Department of Science and the Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biotechnology Research Centre (PMBRC) have provided chemicals, reagents and PPE to UHW laboratory staff and are looking into new methods to increase the speed of testing for the virus. The researchers and staff are also involved in supporting companies involved in the manufacture of other products, including a local chemical company who are manufacturing hand sanitiser.
Enhancing elderly immunity
The Nutrition Research Centre of Ireland (NRCI), in the School of Health Sciences, based in on WIT’s West Campus at Carriganore, Waterford has, amongst other activities, mobilised an international community of researchers to examine ways of enhancing immunity to the virus with targeted nutrition for the ageing population.
Recovery plans for business
Groups within WIT are also directing their efforts towards the challenges for enterprise in this crisis. The RIKON group in the School of Business for instance is an approved supplier for the Enterprise Ireland/IDA and LEO funded Business Continuity Supports for Enterprises and will be working with companies assisting them in crisis management and helping with formulating, planning and execution of recovery plans.
Other initiatives include:
WIT in partnership with UPMC under the direction of the HSE set up a testing facility for Covid-19 at the WIT Arena in late March.
Waterford Institute of Technology’s STEM engagement centre Calmast is delivering online home-learning maths activities for kids and parents to have fun together while learning at home. Read more.
The Academic Council at WIT announced that as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic all semester 2 examinations scheduled for May are to be replaced by alternative assessment. Read more.
WIT Libraries are committed to maintaining critical services and providing resources virtually for its community of users. Read more.
A portal with FAQs and information on Covid-19 can be found at www.wit.ie/coronavirus.