DCMS blog

How snorkels have been converted into life-saving devices for COVID-19 patients…

Avatar photo


Chris Hillidge

Director of STEM at the Challenge Academy Trust

I’m Chris Hillidge, the Director of STEM at the Challenge Academy Trust in Warrington and teacher at Beamont Collegiate Academy. 

Electronic three dimensional plastic printer during work , 3D printer, 3D printing

We used our school’s 3D equipment to convert snorkels into life-saving devices for COVID-19 patients – and as a result – have been nominated in a national campaign by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

The BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) #VITalWorker project invites people to celebrate and recognise the outstanding work of IT experts who have gone the extra mile during this crisis.

We’ve produced medical devices in the past, mainly as prototypes for people setting up businesses and worked with inventors and others. We have got a good track record in thinking of innovative ways of using our technology.

So, when we saw the situation developing with the coronavirus pandemic, we thought, what can we do?

We had seen that in Italy some makers had produced a valve which worked to convert a snorkelling mask from superstore Decathlon into a C-PAP mask which can be used for oxygen therapy.

flat lay shot of yellow diving mask with snorkel over turquoise blue background. minimalist photo of dive mask and snorkel.

So, we made some on our 3D printer and shared our prototype on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The response was overwhelming. I was contacted by Greater Manchester’s Critical Care team and met with the lead consultant at Bolton Royal ICU.

He agreed that it would be medically useful and asked if we could produce hundreds. It’s not a ventilator but it will be useful, and it saved lives in Italy.

We’re continuing to supply the valves to ICU’s across Greater Manchester and Merseyside, and they are being used to save lives. 

We contacted all schools in the area and asked if they could get involved. Now we’re working with 15 schools and colleges across the Greater Manchester areas to co-ordinate the production of the face-shields as well as the valves.

From a standing start, we were soon producing 250 face-shields a day, and we’re coordinating production and distribution.

It’s been a phenomenal effort by schools across Warrington. We’ve produced over 5,000 face shields and our designs are the first to go through official safety certification processes after considerable work by our team of engineers – achieved in five weeks – it usually takes two years.

The Decathlon masks are now being used in over 30 ICU’s – and we know they’ve saved people’s lives.

We’ve all got relatives and friends working in the NHS and we know there’s a real need for equipment. If we can help in any way we can, we will.

Share this