Technology & COVID19

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Máire Geraghty – Dominican College, Galway

Greetings from Galway!

My name is Máire & I’m a TY student from Dominican College, Taylor’s Hill in Galway. As part of my TY year I was given the AMAZING opportunity to participate in a week’s programme of work experience with CONFIRM! I have always loved STEM, and this love grew after starting secondary school, when we started working in proper labs with science equipment. Finding out new information about things that interest me is something that I have always loved as well, so a week spent researching some exciting aspects of STEM seemed pretty cool to me.

During this week we learned about AI, robotics, the differences between stereotypes & reality, 3D printing, radio waves, rules for digital conversations, the various industrial revolutions, sustainable manufacturing, digital twins, some awesome patterns formed by nature… & so much more!

For example, I didn’t realise that the industrial revolution was still happening. I had always thought that the industrial revolution (Industry 1.0) was just the introduction of steam power & factories. You know, what you learn about in History class. However, now I know that the radical digitalization brought on by Covid is Industry 4.0! We also got to try out training AI for ourselves and were told about extremely interesting case studies of where AI went wrong. Computer simulation is another fascinating topic that we encountered during our week with CONFIRM. In particular complex systems. Did you know that most species in nature are genetically pre-programmed to follow simple rules, like birds? Often, as a result of following these rules, some interesting behaviour starts to happen, like a murmuration or an echelon. And, on a more lighthearted note, did you know that it is possible to 3D print food & that there are some people actually 3D printing cheese?!

I could talk all day about things I learned or the amazing group people who I got to “meet” as a result of the week… but, I also need to tell you more about my research project!

So, as you can see from my poster, I called my project, “Isolation, Ideas & IT”, but it’s really about the new technologies & innovations that were brought on by Covid-19. You can look at this from two angles – medical and the global effects of digitalization.

Two fantastic groups of people got together to help hospitals care adequately for the more seriously affected people who contracted Covid-19. The first group was set up by two students from NUIG, in my native Galway. Emily Wallace & Aaron Hannon. They took the initiative to set up the Covid Response Team (CRT – check out to find out more) who created and developed the “Emergency Covid Ventilator” because it was predicted that Ireland would have a shortage of ventilators. This entirely mechanical device was designed to avoid a scenario like Italy where doctors were forced to make decisions about who should live & who should die.

Secondly, a group of people from UCL, UCLH and the Mercedes Formula One team got together to adapt & improve an existing device called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). CPAP bridges the gap between an oxygen mask and the need for full ventilation which requires sedation & an invasive procedure. The improved CPAP is now approved for use by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPRA) which approves medical devices in the UK. Reports from Italy suggest that around half of patients who were given CPAP have avoided the need for invasive medical ventilation.

In terms of global effects of Covid-19, the radical adoption of a digital lifestyle as a result of the pandemic has speeded up the adoption of digital technologies by 3 to 4 years. A global survey of executives by McKinsey shows that many people expect these changes to be in for the long haul. I was able to prove that people were indeed making long-term investments for the new life-style brought about by Covid in a survey of my colleagues during my week with CONFIRM. Overall, the number of devices in people’s households went up after the pandemic hit Ireland and, as you can see from the graph on my poster, the number of hours spent online changed as well. Personally, the amount of time that I spend online has increased by tenfold! Consumers have also moved dramatically towards online channels and companies & industries have responded in turn with a rapid shift towards interacting with customers through digital channels.

Overall, my week with CONFIRM was truly memorable as I learnt so many new things! Hopefully I’ll get to work with them again soon!

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