3D printing face shields, free business advice and online theatre: how Durham University is helping keep us safe and smiling during Covid-19

Durham University has started using its 3D printers to help make face shields for health workers, as it ramps up its part in the effort against coronavirus.

Six technicians from the university’s Chemistry, Physics and Engineering departments are working from home to create sections of the vital protective equipment using high-tech 3D printers, as part of a national 3D Crowd campaign.

They are now producing about 100 each week, which are being delivered to North-East hospitals. The first batch went to Chester-le-Street Community Hospital.

The Northern Echo:

Meanwhile, bioscientists including Dr Fiona Shenton are volunteering to speed up virus testing at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and Engineering Department technicians are continuing to manufacture visors. They have now produced more than 1,000.

Philip Jackson, practice manager at Bishopgate Surgery, Bishop Auckland, said: “The visors made by Durham University are so much easier to work with than goggles and if you wear glasses as well they are much better. They make us feel protected with patients especially if in close contact for 30 minutes doing a dressing change or something similar. Patients are also reassured as they can see we’re taking all precautions to keep us all safe and well.”

In the university’s Business School, experts from the Centre for Technology and Innovation Management are offering North-East businesses free advice on how to navigate through the economic crisis.

The university stepped in to make the offer after new research found that almost a third of businesses in the North and Midlands are at risk of collapse due to Covid-19 impacting their supply chain.

Professor Kiran Fernandes said: “The university is part of our region’s ecosystem. It is critical and timely that we work with our regional businesses and ecosystems to ensure that our expertise can be used to help them develop both short term and long term resilience strategies that can help them not only survive but compete in the post-Covid-19 environment.”

Businesses interested in getting support should contact: business.externalrelations@durham.ac.uk

Durham University students are also doing their bit to help families with children at home. The popular student tutoring programme has moved online, and 31 students are now providing free tutoring to 45 children and young people.

The Northern Echo:

Any parents interested in signing up should email: student.volunteering@durham.ac.uk.

On a lighter note, the university and Durham County Council’s Gala Theatre are teaming up to present an online theatre festival called Onstage: Online.

The festival will run from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, June 14, with theatre streamed live each day on the Gala’s YouTube channel. Funding and mentoring is available for theatre companies and performing arts groups selected to take part. The deadline for applications is Monday, May 4. For more information, call Kate Barton, Head of Durham Student Theatre, on 0191-334-4316 or email: assemblyrooms.theatre@durham.ac.uk.

Durham University staff and students are also helping with fundraising efforts to support charities and good causes that are part of the Covid-19 response.

Although their matches have been cancelled, members of the university’s netball team have been keeping active by running 1,407km – the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats – to raise money for NHS Charities Together.

Members of the tennis club are running 1,000km – the distance from Durham to Wimbledon and back – for the same cause and the cricket club has donated to £2,000 to County Durham Foodbank and NHS Charities Together.

Gillian Willmore, a Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham, though asthmatic and over 70, is climbing the height of Durham Cathedral on her stairs every day, in aid of St John Ambulance. She eventually hopes to scale the equivalent of Mt Everest.

For more information on how Durham University is supporting the fight against coronavirus, visit www.durham.ac.uk/community/covid19support