From where I stand: “I printed a 3-D face shield to protect my sister from the coronavirus”
Randa Atef is a 26-year-old electrical engineer from El-Mahalla El-Kubra, Gharbia Governorate. Atef is cofounder of the Robot Academy, a skills-development centre that organizes robotics and electronics educational activities for the children of El-Mahalla. Her passion for innovation and her drive to protect her sister, a dentist, from the coronavirus inspired Atef to use a locally manufactured 3-D printer to make her face shields. Given the rising local demand for such personal protective equipment, she is now exploring the possibility of producing face shields for other at-risk members of her community.
“My passion for engineering started at a very young age and it led me to the Department of Electrical Engineering of Mansoura University. There, I joined a club called ‘Alpha’ and it really increased my passion for robotics and electronics. It is an open field where you can always innovate using whatever materials or tools that are available to you at a low cost.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis had a huge, negative impact on my life and the lives of those close to me. My centre suspended its activities since 14 March 2020, because it’s a place where many children are gathered at the same time. What made it even worse is that this is the beginning of the summer season and this is our most active time of the year, since children are off from schools. I also had to close the centre as I couldn’t pay the rent, but I shifted to facilitating online activities for the children. I am mainly teaching them [the children] the basics of programming. My goal is to introduce them to the languages of the future [programming languages].
In my centre, we used to facilitate some activities for the children using a 3-D printer. These are not very widespread in Egypt, but they are gaining popularity, especially now. My 3-D printer was locally manufactured.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus and since my sister is a dentist, I was worried about her health, especially since there is a shortage in personal protective equipment, so I thought about using my 3-D printer to print facemasks and face shields for her. I found online designs, printed them, and gave them to my sister to use as a temporary solution.
She thinks they are useful and some people in her field have already requested some from me, but I haven’t applied for an approval to produce them yet, so I politely declined. But I think I will focus more of my efforts on the face shields because they provide an extra layer of protection and they require less testing and approvals from the responsible authorities. They can also be used by people in different fields.”
Randa Atef, 26, is one of the millions of women in Egypt who are innovatively adapting and responding to the coronavirus crisis. Her work contributes to SDG 3: “Good health and well-being” as she seeks to improve access to personal protective equipment for members of her community, and SDG 9: “Industry, innovation and infrastructure”, as she seeks to innovate and develop local technological abilities and increase children’s and girls interest in technology. UN Women spoke to Atef to learn more about how the coronavirus crisis has changed her life and that of her community. UN Women is working closely in partnership with the Government of Egypt, civil society, and the private sector to ensure gender-sensitive responses in all aspects of the crisis.
 UN Women first learned about Randa Atef in an article by Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Abdel-Warith, published in ElMasry ElYoum newspaper, who helped connect her with UN Women for a separate interview.Read Arabic