“In my class, there are 15 students and all of them took up the COVID-19 challenge,” says John Sweetman, design teacher for the Middle Years Programme. “We try to do something authentic, a response to things that are topical.”
This spring, it doesn’t get more topical than the global pandemic. Students were eager to work with the design brief, which asked them to identify a problem related to COVID-19 and create a design solution that would offer some relief.
Sebastian Jones and Matthew Witz-Tsofin, students in the product stream of the design program, took up the challenge, and the difference in their projects is emblematic of how design can lead to many paths. Jones has designed a COVID-19 field testing centre that can be packed flat for shipping abroad, while Witz-Tsofin has created a game that will offer youth an incentive to wash their hands for the proper length of time, a key to disease prevention.
Jones first heard about testing shortages from his aunt, a front-line worker. “There aren’t always sufficient testing facilities, especially in developing countries if the virus spreads,” he says. “They don’t have the same healthcare system or networks that we have.”
Using an online program, Jones designed a light structure made of vinyl with a metal roof that has a red cross emblazoned on it to identify it as a hospital facility. Packing details are still in the works.
“It has a ramp so it’s accessible to everyone and I tried to reduce the common spaces to reduce the risk of infecting others,” says Jones. “If it could help reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially in areas where the disease will be devastating, that would be amazing.”
Witz-Tsofin took another approach, looking at COVID-19 on a more individual level. “The No. 1 public health concern seemed to be that people need to wash their hands regularly,” he says.
His game keeps youngsters and teens engaged while washing their hands so they won’t quit too soon. There’s a basketball hoop that fits over a faucet, a tube that directs the water, and a mat that rests on the sink bottom and holds a collapsible cup. When the cup is full, it collapses and has to be reset by the hand washer, who must continue washing until the cup collapses three times.
“It’s targeted mostly towards kids and teens who don’t necessarily understand or care about the importance of washing hands,” he says. “This will be a fun thing for them to do, enough so that they want to continue. The real prize will be staying healthy.”
Sweetman is proud of his students and their creativity. Paul Miskew, the Upper School’s design head, is also proud of design faculty.
“This underlines our department’s ability to pivot as the world around us changes, which is a good lesson for the boys,” Miskew says.