IEEE Sections Receive Grants for Their Innovative Ways of Helping to Fight the Coronavirus

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THE INSTITUTE The IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee and the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology joined forces to award grants to IEEE volunteer projects that could immediately impact the fight against the coronavirus and its effects. The technologies and programs being developed by various IEEE sections include ones that are intended to supplement online education, help stop the spread of the virus, and provide support to medical professionals.

The grants, totaling more than US $226,000 as of press time, were given to more than 50 projects in 21 countries. Updated information can be found here.

Below are six projects that were awarded grants of $5,000, the highest amount a project could receive.

• The IEEE Columbus [Ohio] Section, in collaboration with local community groups and eight nonprofits, is developing systems for a self-sustaining urban farm in Columbus’s Milo Grogan neighborhood. African Americans—who make up more than 80 percent of residents there—have been disproportionally affected by the virus. About 45 percent of the neighborhood’s residents live below the poverty line, according to a 2016 study by the nonprofit Greater Ohio Policy Center, making it difficult to afford healthy food, like fresh produce.

An example photo showing a smaller version of a prototype insert for the food rack
Photo: Roots Up
Once completed, the Milo Grogan urban farm will house shipping containers holding hydroponic food racks similar to the smaller prototype pictured here.

The IEEE section is developing automated lighting and watering systems for the urban farm. The lighting system’s cycles will be determined by the type of LEDs being used in a specific area of the farm and the growth stage of the produce in that area, according to IEEE Senior Member Carl Lee. The water system’s schedule will be based on the type of plant, what growing medium is used, and what type of nutrient mixtures are added to the growing medium.

The Milo Grogan 365 Fresh Produce Farm will provide local restaurants and residents, who will also manage the farm, with organic produce year-round. The farm, which is expected to start food production in 2021, will also create jobs and revenue for the neighborhood.

• The IEEE Nigeria Section is building a robot that can quickly detect whether a person has COVID-19 symptoms, by, for example, checking for low blood oxygen levels and elevated body temperature. The IEEE section’s robot will use machine learning algorithms and absolute accuracy metrics to ensure the measurements are precise.

Presentation of masks and hand sanitizers to community leaders in Nigeria
Photo: John Oyewole Funso-Adebayo
Engineers, including IEEE Senior Member John Oyewole Funso-Adebayo [second from the right], presenting masks and hand sanitizer to community leaders in Jos, Nigeria.

The section is also developing a program to train city leaders in Jos, in the Plateau State, how to make alcohol-based hand sanitizer and create personal protection equipment. The hand sanitizer is being made from a mixture of either grounded camphor or wild spinach as well as ethanol, glycerin, and lavender oil, according to IEEE Senior Member John Oyewole Funso-Adebayo. The PPE are made from tight-woven cotton fabric that is sewn by hand or by a sewing machine, he says. Many of the city’s residents live in camps and are internally displaced persons—those who were forced to flee their homes but remain within Nigeria’s borders.

• Volunteers from the IEEE Ecuador Section and members of the IEEE student branch at Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral, in Guayaquil, are developing an online digital literacy program to teach basic programming to high school students.

The educational system on the Galapagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, is not equipped to offer online classes because instructors lack computer literacy. The goal of the program is for the high school students on the Galapagos Islands to teach basic programming and digital applications virtually to others. Members of the IEEE student branch will serve as mentors and facilitators.

• Residents of the underserved community of Siddapura, in Bangalore, India, have no way to protect themselves against the coronavirus. To help them, the IEEE Bangalore Section is using a 3D printer to produce personal protection kits. The kit includes a finger protection cover [to protect wearer from exposure to the virus], a printed handy [to hold or grab items], a door opener, and an elbow-operated soap dispenser.

From left: Sreekanth NV, Abhishek Appaji, and Shekar GK
Photo: Abhishek Appaji
IEEE Bangalore Section members Sreekanth NV [left], Abhishek Appaji [center], and Shekar GK showing some of the personal protection items they have 3D printed.

• Low-cost, foot-operated hand-washing systems with soap and water dispensers are being developed by the IEEE Uganda Section. The systems will be installed by IEEE members on university campuses in Uganda that have an IEEE student branch. The units will be made using locally available materials and will not require electricity. Therefore, they could also be installed in remote, off-grid communities.

Attention IEEE members: are you part of a team responding to the COVID-19 crisis? We want to hear from you! Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if you are helping deal with the outbreak in some way, let us know. Send us accounts of anywhere from 200 to 800 words, or simply give us a rough idea of what you are doing and your contact information. Write to:k.pretz@ieee.org

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