Harnessing community in a pandemic

Bendigo’s leaders in business, technology and manufacturing are working together to harness their knowledge and expertise as the region steps up its response to COVID-19.

La Trobe University Professor of Practice (Engineering) Chris Stoltz (left in picture), is co-ordinating a Bendigo-based initiative in which business, local government, manufacturing and higher education experts are working on a number of projects aimed at ensuring that the community is equipped as well as possible to respond to the pandemic.

“We have some amazing capabilities in Bendigo, including manufacturers who are ready and willing to reconfigure their plants to make much-needed equipment for hospitals,” Professor Stoltz said.

“As part of our collaborative approach, we’ve looked at what resources we have that we can bring together.  We’ve now got La Trobe engineers working with Bendigo manufacturers on adapting CPAP machines to work as ventilators. We’re also working on a way to make ventilators from licenced designs, here in Bendigo,” Professor Stoltz said.

He said there was a large amount of goodwill towards the project which stems from the Bendigo “Fraunhofer” Digital Transformation Project which fosters collaboration between La Trobe’s engineering school, the City of Greater Bendigo, and the Bendigo Manufacturing Group.

“Many companies have come forward offering their equipment and staff.  Our efforts are part of broader work underway by universities around Australia to do what we can to help,” Professor Stoltz said.

Bendigo Tech School, housed in La Trobe’s Engineering and Technology Building, is part of the Bendigo Digital Transformation Working Group, and this week began using its 3D-printers to prototype components for personal protective equipment that could be used by healthcare workers.

The school’s Director, Mr Graeme Wiggins (right in picture), said although La Trobe campuses are now operating online, a small number of essential staff have special permission to work on the premises, including for the Tech School’s work as part of the healthcare initiative.

“This week we put our advanced manufacturing technology to work prototyping parts for much-needed visors to protect healthcare workers who might be exposed to COVID-19. As an innovation hub that enables students to solve industry challenges in real-world contexts, it’s fitting that we’ve been able to put our resources and technical know-how to practical use,” Mr Wiggins said.

Media Contact: Kathryn Powley | k.powley@latrobe.edu.au | 9479 3491 | 0456 764 371