Luis Gonzalez Quiros is no stranger to robots. His interest in them goes back at least to his university days, when he was studying engineering.

“We had a lot of fun making robots back then, we would have contests to build robots that would fight each other,” Gonzalez Quiros says with a laugh. Nowadays, he uses his skills as a Director of Automation and Process Improvement at Scotiabank in Central America, developing the bots that help improve customer service and working on the digitization of the Bank’s processes across the region.

In his spare time, he has also been helping to build robotic arms for Costa Rica’s health care system.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the Central American country scrambled to prepare. Gonzalez Quiros and colleagues across several disciplines from the university where he studied quickly gathered to see how they could help. They broke into smaller groups to tackle different challenges.

Gonzalez Quiros’ group, made up mostly of engineers, took on three tasks: 1) making robotic arms that can change serum and blood bags, move beds, or pump air for respirators to reduce the chance of exposure for frontline workers; 2) making artificial respirators, of which there weren’t enough in the small country; and 3) making 3D printers so hospitals can recycle their used plastic masks to make new ones.

To date, they’ve produced 100 robotic arms (pictured above) and 1,000 respirators, Gonzalez Quiros says.

“It's amazing what you can do when you put all these professionals around a table,” he says. “You can fix some really serious problems.

“I visited a hospital a month ago where they were using our equipment. It’s one thing to see it in a simulated environment, but seeing it being used to actually save lives was incredible.”

With a population of about 5 million, Costa Rica had 5,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 deaths as of July 7, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Scotiabank has been operating in Costa Rica since 1995. It currently has about 1,800 employees there and offers a full range of financial services to consumers, small businesses and corporations. Gonzalez Quiros says the Bank was very supportive of his efforts on behalf of his country, which benefitted from the skills he acquired at the Bank.

“They gave me time to do the work, and they contributed ideas to our group that helped us solve the problems. I got a lot of support.”

In April, Scotiabank announced it would commit $2.5-million to community response efforts against COVID-19 across its international footprint. This included donations in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the Bank has a significant presence. Some of the recipients of donations included:

  • The Cardiology Institute in Colombia for medical technology and equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and diagnostic tests, among other things:
  • Plan International Peru, for PPE;
  • Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria, for 3D and laser printers to make PPE;
  • Unidos Para Ayudar in Uruguay, for relief of the economic-social impacts of COVID-19, with donations of food and basic necessities to vulnerable families affected by COVID-19;
  • Red Cross of Panama, for the purchase of a modular 16-bed hospital;
  •  Is There Not A Cause in Trinidad and Tobago, for food and relief supplies;
  • Mount St. John Medical Centre in Antigua;
  • Rotary Club of Barbados, for food and relief supplies;
  • University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica, for Flow Nasal Oxygen Systems to assist patients with respiratory issues.