UBC volunteers help tackle COVID-19 equipment supply challenges

A consistent challenge in regions facing COVID-19 outbreaks is maintaining a sufficient supply of medical equipment. One way UBC students are collaborating with others to address this challenge is through Open Source Covid19 Medical Supplies - BC (OSCMS-BC).

Yajur Sondhi, the marketing lead for OSCMS-BC and a UBC graduate, said that even within BC, “there are a whole bunch of smaller groups — makers and manufacturers that are each doing their own independent thing.”

According to Sondhi, OSCMS-BC is playing a role in coordinating between local governments and hospitals that are in need of supplies — which range from ventilators to face shields to ear savers, devices that prevent mask straps from cutting into workers’ ears on long shifts — and the local groups working to meet that need.

“We’re trying to … find these groups, let them know that we exist so they can get connected to us. Once they’re connected to us, we can help them find either the resources, the people or the documentation they need to create a more effective response in order to meet growing and changing needs within their communities,” he said.

According to Sondhi, the organization is growing quickly and it needs people to do everything from documentation to outreach to research.

UBC engineering student Emma Gray is co-head of recruitment along with another UBC student. She described OSCMS-BC as playing a role in reducing redundancy between different local groups.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of centralized hub so that local groups who were working on these things can benefit from each other’s work and as an extension of that, also benefit from the open source work that’s going on around the world?” Gray said. “That’s sort of where the OSCMS-BC comes from.”

Ryan Carriere, a UBC engineering student and the chapter liaison between OSCMS-BC and the central OSCMS group, also highlighted the need for effective communication among local design and manufacturing groups as well as those working internationally to address the same set of needs.

“The biggest challenge so far has been getting a handle on all the different projects going on and trying to keep up to date,” he said. “Because there’s so much going on and so many great things happening, it can be a little bit of a challenge to keep up with the flow of information.”

Carriere added that he got involved in the organization because he wanted to help.

“I felt that if there's anything to be doing right now and helping with, this is the best thing to do to — based on my skills — help with the cause,” he said.

For others who are involved, working with OSCMS-BC has also been a valuable learning experience.

“It’s a bit of a stretch beyond the normal engineering skill set that I would pick up in classes. It’s a really interesting challenge and I think it's something a lot of us are just super keen to be exposed to,” Gray said.