Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is expanding an existing science and engineering training program in Sub-Saharan Africa to help provide critical medical supplies to address the expected spike of COVID-19 cases. As part of its longtime Math and Science for Sub Saharan Africa (MS4SSA) initiative, WPI has arranged for 3D printers and other materials to be sent to six countries to facilitate the manufacturing of masks, face shields, and parts for simple automated ventilators. WPI will also share designs and offer online training sessions to ensure safe and effective production as experts are predicting a surge of COVID-19 patients in Africa over the next six to eight weeks.
“Because WPI already had a program to support STEM learning in Africa through the MS4SSA, we are able to quickly launch this additional work to create and distribute critical medical supplies to help address the pandemic,” said Winston (Wole) Soboyejo, WPI Provost. “It is amazing to see how that project, which started with modules in robotics, materials, and 3D printing, has helped to prepare a new generation of trainers from six African countries to work with WPI faculty, staff, and students to now focus on co-creating and scaling-up the distribution of face masks and face shields that will protect health workers from the coronavirus, and innovate with a new ventilator design developed by a WPI professor. This work will impact the lives of people in Massachusetts and Sub-Saharan African countries.”
Launched by the World Bank in 2016, the MS4SSA initiative complements other efforts to improve mathematics and science education in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It offers countries technical assistance to enhance learning outcomes in those subjects. Over the last two years the initiative has grown to include robotics engineering, materials science, and 3D printing.
“It is wonderful to see African institutions and WPI working together to use and adapt technology to meet African needs. The impact of this program to address timely and critical issues speaks to the strong motivation to build the technical-scientific capability of Africa,” said Sajitha Bashir, World Bank Adviser to the Education Global Director on Science, Technology, and Innovation.