In order for educational institutions to open their doors to students again, safety measures, solutions, and pathogen reduction technologies (PRTs) need to be implemented in place and integrated seamlessly into the infrastructure. To encourage and support such efforts, the Masri Institute of Energy and Natural Resources launched a special call for project proposals in 2020 seeking safe, smart, and affordable solutions that target these Covid-19 related challenges. One of the MI funded proposals titled “A Complete and Automated UV Light-Based Pathogen Reduction Technology for Indoor Learning Spaces", won 1st place in the FYP Accelerator Program by the Entrepreneurship Initiative.
In order to provide safer indoor learning spaces for students worldwide to return to, it is prudent that classrooms are periodically sterilized to reduce pathogen transmission among students. However, it is impractical, both logistically and financially, for a cleaning staff to thoroughly disinfect all classroom spaces in the 10-15 minute break that typically separates two consecutive periods, not to mention the harmful fumes that typical results from solvent-based cleaners typically used to clean these spaces. To mitigate these problems, Dr. Omar Awartani, an assistant professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and co-advised by Dr. Elie Shammas, an associate professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering proposed to design and fabricate a complete and automated Ultraviolet-based sterilization solution that can run autonomously and is able to sterilize a typical classroom in 5 minutes or less. Four AUB students, Marc-Emile Boustany, Yara ElBaba, Abedel-Hameed Saker, and Jihad Sinno were assigned to work on this project. The team was able to successfully design and integrate the fully automated robot and dubbed it “GUARD" or Germicidal Ultraviolet Automated Robot for Disinfection. Currently, GUARD is in the prototype stage and will hopefully be implemented within the next couple of months.