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FASTEnER lab to make protective face shields for first responders, medical providers

ISSUED: 26 March 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Fine Arts, Science, Technology, Engineering, Educational Resource (FASTEnER) lab is coordinating an effort to provide additional protective gear to medical personnel and first responders on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Kay Dartt, clinical faculty/3D fabrication manager, has been preparing to make face shield frames that can be created on 3D printers and is leading an effort to acquire more printers and material to ramp up production.

“These are used by medical providers and first responders to protect their faces,” Dartt said. “They have masks to help with what they breathe in. The face shields will help protect from anything splashing on their face.”

Dartt has been in the FASTEnER lab working on prototypes, establishing methods for production, and ordering supplies. She has reached out to other departments within the university, the local public school system, area companies, and the community to gather materials and 3D printers.

Reza Mirdamadi, chair, Department of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Engineering; Dr. Jeff Groff, chair, Department of Environmental and Physical Sciences; Chase Molden, theater tech director; and alumna Laura Miller, of Wildwood Middle school, have all lent 3D printers. Molden is also working on casting methods to increase production time. Christian Benefiel, associate professor of art, is helping to find more equipment and materials.

“There are a lot of people helping with this project, and it is really amazing how everyone is coming together on this,” Dartt said. “Once we are fully producing face shields, we will have a few more people help clean them up and fabricate other parts that are not 3D printed.”

Dartt said Dr. Robert Warburton, dean, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, will be testing methods of sterilizing the face shields so they can be sent to first responders more quickly.

“We’re trying to keep this process as clean as possible because of how easily the virus spreads,” Dartt said. “We will need to wear protective gear while making and handling the products, and once they’re produced, any masks that can’t be sterilized will have to sit for three days to make sure they aren’t carrying the virus. We have to be very careful in this process and do it right.”

“I am very grateful to our talented faculty and staff who are working tirelessly to create critically needed medical supplies using innovative technology to combat the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, Shepherd president. “Shepherd considers this opportunity to help first responders in our community a moral obligation that will set an example for our students—the next generation of leaders and model citizens—regarding how we work together for the collective humanitarian benefit of our community.”

A $7,500 donation from Len and Julia Frenkil and Norman and Betty Secrist to the Shepherd University Foundation for the Center for Regional Innovation to expand 3D printing opportunities will also be used to purchase additional printers. Dartt hopes to begin fully producing the masks next week.

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