Engineering Covid-safe LEGO grabbers

Covid-safe LEGO grabber in hand

Engineering Covid-safe LEGO grabbers

As Covid-19 restrictions start to ease in the UK, you may find yourself thinking about once everyday tasks in a new light. How do you feel about pressing the buttons on a cash machine? Using a communal kitchen? When will you feel comfortable catching the bus again?

The building blocks of normal life

The transition from lockdown to a more ‘normal’ way of life is not straightforward – so our Engineers have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering on ‘Project Clean Access’. A crowd sourced toolkit of simple low-cost technological interventions that will help to reduce the spread of the virus and can facilitate our gradual return to normal life.

Engineering students holding the LEGO grabber
Mechanical Engineering students with their grabber

This winter, our 2nd year Mechanical Engineering students took on Project Clean Access. Students were asked to develop devices that removed the need for contact with surfaces and buttons on public transport, using only Lego and other items that can easily be built at home.

There were more than 60 different solutions submitted, with all kinds of grabbers, pushers, holders, catchers, and even the occasional grappling hook!

Following a technical design process they developed technical requirements, came up with ideas and tested them in the real world.

The solution’s in your hand

A really important part of the problem was that they were designing for the general public, not for themselves. Many people have the tools to create at home and the potential to reduce their own transmission risk, but they aren’t engineers or designers. By producing simple designs and the instructions that make them, our students are helping to empower people to engage with the issues and create their own solutions, in a way that’s accessible to all.

Underpinning the fun and the seemingly superficial task were a few crucial questions:

  • How can we empower the general public with the means to reduce their own transmission risk?
  • Can we help people create their own solutions, rather than rely on new products that may ultimately become unsustainable waste?
  • How can we use fun and accessible activities to engage people with the complex problems around virus transmission?

Project Clean Access principles

The principles of Project Clean Access are to complement the core regimes of handwashing, cleaning and PPE through the design of a low-cost easy-to-use toolkit for:

  • reducing and, where possible, eliminating unnecessary contact points/surfaces in work places, essential service and public environments;
  • helping us to meet physical distancing requirements;
  • reinforcing and embedding ‘good practice; and,
  • making the transition as positive an experience as possible for all, e.g. engaging children.

Project Clean Access is administered by the Design and Manufacturing Futures lab