PORTSMOUTH — Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in high demand as nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals fight against the Coronavirus on the front lines.
Thanks to a small group of Shawnee State University Students, nearly a dozen local health care workers have been provided with face shields, scarce amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These face shields are now being tested by medical professionals at both Shawnee Family Health Center and Southern Ohio Medical Center.
After reading an article about 3D models for alternative masks to the N95 filter used in the medical community, SSU students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program, Nathan Dever and Adam Bilitzke began working on prototypes early last month.
“We first produced a face mask,” said Dever, a junior political science and plastics engineering technology major from Minford, Ohio. “We showed our first prototype to medical professionals at Southern Ohio Medical Center and they helped us test it. The plastic part needed to fit properly on the face and used a filter that was also becoming difficult to obtain. We then shifted our focus to face shields that are also needed.”
Dever stated he began the project in hopes of protecting those working closest to the virus.
“This is one of the benefits of the plastics field. It takes creativity and problem-solving skills. This is the part that appeals to me. I want to help people in Scioto County. My sister is in the medical field. I want her to be safe.”
Adam Bilitzke, a junior from Troy, has ties to the medical community. “My mother is a nurse,” Bilitzke said. “She works in a nursing home. I have a personal interest in this project. It’s important. I can say that this is the most fulfilling project I’ve ever been involved with. Before coming to Shawnee State two years ago, I received my Eagle Scout award and worked as a lifeguard. Giving back to my community is important to me.”
Adam Miller, SSU professor and chair of the SSU Department of Engineering Technologies, said that Shawnee State is answering Governor DeWine’s call to manufacturers to assist with the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during this time
“We have the same technology in our student labs that is available in advanced manufacturing companies around the state, thanks to ongoing partnerships that we have with industry leaders,” said Miller. “Over the past few weeks, we have been researching and evaluating prototypes of products that we could produce here to help our medical community safely manage the coronavirus pandemic. While our capacity is limited, our equipment and the capabilities of our students are industry standard and we want to do what we can to help.”
Cyndy Bell, nursing coordinator at Shawnee Family Health, said she would be picking up the face shields later Thursday evening, and stated she was extremely grateful for the donation. Bell stated that patients are still being seen in the primary care clinics and in-home visits and said that it is important for these nurses to be able to protect themselves from potential exposure to COVID-19.
“We want to do all we can to make sure we aren’t getting infected and bringing it home to our families,” said Bell.
She shared she was very happy to be able to test these initial masks and was grateful for any amount of PPE which would protect her staff. While these shields do not replace the need for N95 masks, they provide an extra layer of protection.
Shawnee State’s Dental Clinic also donated unused gloves and surgical masks to the medial professionals in need.
Shawnee State is aligned with OhioTechNet, Ohio Manufacturing Association, Ohio’s plastics industry, and the Scioto County Career and Technical Center in coordinated efforts to increase the supply of PPE to Ohio’s medical workers. The team is following guidance and using 3D models aligned with the National Institutes of Health and AmericaMakes.