April 3, 2020
Students in the Plastics Engineering Technology program at Shawnee State University have created prototypes for face shields that could be used to protect local health care workers. More than ten of the prototypes are now being evaluated by medical professionals at Shawnee Family Health Center and Southern Ohio Medical Center.
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. The equipment is in high demand because of the anticipated increase in cases of COVID-19 that will require treatment.
“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,” Miller said.
“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.”
Miller said that the project began with SSU students Nathan Dever and Adam Bilitzke in early March. After reading an article about 3D models for alternative masks to the N95 filter used in the medical community, the two began working on prototypes.
“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.”
With the goal to make sure his loved ones are save, Dever said this situation was part of why he entered the field.
“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 of Scioto County. My sister is in the medical field. I want her to be safe.”
Dever’s classmate, Adam Bilitzke, a junior from Troy, Ohio, also has family 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.”
The work that these students, and others who have now joined them on the project, have done is appreciated by the medical community, too.
“We’re hopeful about these face shields and I can’t say enough about these students and their desire to protect us,” Cyndy Bell, Nursing Coordinator at Shawnee Family Health Center and SSU nursing program graduate said.
“We are seeing people in our primary care clinic and we make home visits. Having protective equipment is critical. We appreciate what Shawnee State University is doing to help.”
Shawnee State’s Dental Clinic has also provided a helping hand.
“In addition to the face shields, the clinic donated their unused gloves and surgical masks,” Bell said. “Right now, we’re down to under 10 N95 masks. We’re waiting on an order, but the supply shortage is concerning. These face shields give us an extra measure of protection.”
Face shields do not replace masks, but are important PPE devices that are used with masks to provide barrier protection for health care workers. Face shields are included on the Ohio Department of Health list of needed medical items during this coronavirus pandemic.
“Face shields protect our clinicians and help us stretch the life of our masks,” said Julie Thornsbury, nurse manager of the cardiovascular operating room and sterile processing at Southern Ohio Medical Center.
“We require the use of shields at SOMC as an extra protective barrier. They can be disinfected between patients and re-used by staff. Knowing that we have a potential supplier is great news.”
Thornsbury is also an SSU nursing program graduate and has been partnering with students in the SSU plastics lab on several projects.
“This is an ongoing partnership,” she said. “I was thrilled when they brought me their first prototype and I can’t wait to test the face shield. We plan to send them to four of our most critical areas – the emergency department, surgery, intensive care, and respiratory therapy.”
Thornsbury said those key areas will demonstrate the masks’ usability.
“If they work in these areas, they’ll work everywhere. We’ve also been talking about intubation shields and other possible products. I love how our community is coming together in new ways to protect each other and support one another. It’s appreciated,” she said.
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.