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Award winning design is the future of PPE

Update: November, 27/2020 - 12:50

HÀ NỘI - A group of teenage scientists have developed a futuristic facemask they hope can be a Personal Protective Equipment game changer.

The mask is specifically for those working on the frontline to prevent COVID-19 and is designed with both safety and comfort features.

The mask has special compartments that allow wearers to not only safely touch or wipe their faces, but also enables them to eat without removing the mask.

But the real advantage of Vihelm is it mirrors the conditions of an isolation room – an area considered the safest place to be to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

The young team discuss the helmet. VNS Photo

It was 17-year-old Đỗ Trọng Minh Đức who first had the eureka moment during a tortuous 19 hour flight returning home to Việt Nam from the US where he was studying.

“During my 19 hours flight, I had to use three face masks and four PPE bodysuits,” said the 17-year-old.

“After going through this horrible experience, I wished I could design more suitable personal protective equipment.”

Đức teamed up with a group of other scientists and after researching the product and the science needed to create the ultimate protective mask, Vihelm was born.

Nguyễn Đình Nam was the instructor of the development team.

“When the outbreak of COVID-19 epidemic broke out, we were very concerned and wanted to do something to contribute to the fight against the world's pandemic,” he said.

“Through researching related equipment, especially ventilators, personal protective and related medical equipment, we decided to combine the idea of an isolation room into a helmet. We call it the mobile isolation helmet.

“Thank to research, we have learned that similar helmets have been produced, but there are many disadvantages.

“They cannot be worn for long because it will be annoying, especially for people with hypoglycemia or asthma. We have removed the disadvantages of those helmets with breakthrough improvements.”

The helmet was designed focusing on the convenience of user. Photo vihelm.com

As the pandemic spread all across the globe, more information was learned about best practice when it came to containing, and preventing the spread of the virus.

While facemasks were an obvious advantage, it was quickly discovered people should avoid touching their faces. This proved to be a great hurdle, especially for those on the frontline who need to keep their faces covered for long periods of time.  

Team member Trần Nguyễn Khánh An, told Việt Nam News: “We understand that it is annoying to use normal helmets, because we cannot rub our eyes or touch our faces.

“Our design enhances the convenience of the user. We created the glove box, so people can touch their face when using the helmet.  It can be removed easily to be cleaned out to disinfect any potential dangers to the user.

“Together with the glove box, we created the food basket. This can be used to keep objects inside the helmet, such as food or asthma sprays for some background diseases.

“Additionally, we created six holes on the top of the helmet so people could scratch their heads when needed.

“There is also a screw on the back to adjust the helmet to fit the head size. This idea we took from the design of a cycling helmet.”

People working in the service industry are a target customer group of Vihelm. Photo vihelm.com

At just 14 years old, Nguyễn Hoàng Phúc, is the youngest of the team.

He said the target customer for Vihelm would be those who not only need to be protected at all times, but also those who come into regular contact with members of the public.

Phúc said: “The main target group of the helmet is people who work in the frontline such as medical healthcare workers, aviation personnel, or food delivery personnel. In addition, the helmet can be used by anyone, with safety awareness during an ongoing pandemic.”

Their helmet, which costs around $200 to reproduce using 3D printing technology, has already caught the eye of experts worldwide.

They received the Best Invention Design Award at iCan - International Invention Innovation Competition in Canada in August and have since been in discussions with medical staff about development of the product.

The team and their instructor Nguyễn Đình Nam (second from right) working with helmet makers. VNS Photo. 

Nam added: “We have worked with the General Department of Quality Metrology, laboratories of universities and discussed with WHO about the product.”

As the world adapts to a new norm created by the global pandemic, new innovations are needed from young minds.

The staff of Vihelm are at the forefront of this new technology with their futuristic invention that might just help save lives and protect those on the frontline. VNS

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