ITE team invents face shield to help teachers be heard more clearly

A lecturer conducts a class at ITE College East using the enhanced face shield. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
The ITE College East team started work on the idea last month, before the school term started this month. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - A group of Institute of Technical Education (ITE) staff have invented a face shield for their colleagues to wear as they teach, so that they can be heard better by students.

The design was inspired by a melaphone, a device used for communication in environments such as laboratories and clean rooms, which must be kept germ-free.

The melaphone acts as a diaphragm so that users do not have to project their voices too much.

According to the team's experiments, even when worn together with a mask, the shield can improve the sound pressure level or voice level by more than four decibels, as compared with wearing a mask alone.

The ITE College East team started work on the idea last month, before the school term started this month.

ITE College East principal Yek Tiew Ming said: "We had queries from staff about whether students would be able to hear them, if their voices would be too muffled (with masks or shields on)."

Staff have been advised to put on masks or shields when teaching in classrooms. When there is closer interaction with students, like during practicals, staff have to wear both masks and shields.

"Staff have also been given the option of using wired microphones. But they have to handle a lot of equipment, especially during practical sessions, and it can be quite cumbersome," said Dr Yek.

Mr Roy Tan, section head of ITE College East's chemical process technology department, came up with the idea to integrate the melaphone design with a standard face shield.

Dr Yek said: "We had not found anything like this face shield in the market or in any other school."

Other staff from the college's school of engineering and Technology Development Centre were soon roped into the project. They include Mr Alfred Tan, the centre's director, and Mr Raymond See, deputy director of the college's school of applied sciences.

The first 50 shields were distributed across ITE's three campuses earlier this month for staff to try. The next batch of 600 will be given to ITE College East staff this week.

The shields are made in the college's Makerspace, a place for staff and students to work on prototypes.

A total of 10 staff were involved in the project, from the design process to making the prototype, to testing the product. They went through three to four iterations before settling on a final product.

Dr Yek said: "So far, the feedback has been mostly positive, and students can hear the staff clearly. If many teachers find it useful, we will be happy to work with other teachers and schools, or in any other setting, to make this available to them."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.