(March 26, 2020) – West Virginia University at Parkersburg is using its unique resources to find solutions to help with shortages our local health care facilities are facing during the COVID-19 crisis.
Jeff Matheny, WVU Parkersburg Board of Governor’s member and CEO of Physician’s Business Office, recently contacted the WVU Parkersburg’s Workforce and Economic Development Division (WED) Executive Director Michele Wilson to see how WED could use their onsite makerspace to help provide additional face shields to our health care community.
“I had been following the news on the COVID-19 response from hospitals and health care facilities around the country when I saw an article talking about shortages of personal protective equipment because of the huge demand,” said Matheny. “The article described a process that had been developed in Boston to utilize 3D printers to produce face shields. Once I forwarded this information to Michele, her team jumped in and produced a prototype very quickly. After showing what had been produced to people working in health care settings locally, they confirmed the need and were excited to have something to protect the staff who might be exposed to the virus.”
Facing the challenge of producing protective face shields as quickly as possible, Logan Mace, WVU Parkersburg Entrepreneur Center project coordinator, immediately started researching potential solutions. He found that the online maker community had already developed great designs that the college’s makerspace would be able to fabricate via 3D printers and a laser cutter. A protype was created and shared with Matheny, who then asked the makerspace to create 100 face shields as quickly as possible for distribution to local hospitals, physicians’ offices and health care centers later this week.
“Our institution, and our division in particular, has always searched for ways we can give back to the community and help find solutions to the problems business and industry face,” said Wilson. “We are very happy we can use the resources we have, which are normally open to the public to use, to do our part in helping keep our doctors and health care providers safe.”
Other community partners have since become involved in the project. When local philanthropist Tres Ross of the Ross Foundation became aware of what we were doing, he called upon two other local makerspaces – the Epicenter in Marietta and the Boys & Girls Club of Parkersburg – to help as well. Ben Shuman, executive director for the Boys & Girls Club of Parkersburg, ordered the raw materials and Brad Hemmerly, Epicenter Makerspace coordinator, is picking them up in Columbus, Ohio. The Ross Foundation is providing a $5,000 grant for the materials. Woodcraft Supply is also providing more than 650 masks and shields to local health care workers. The hope is that between all of the community partners thousands of face shields will continue to be made and distributed to area medical workers.
WVU Parkersburg’s WED is planning to virtually train other makerspace locations throughout the state on how to create these masks for distribution. The West Virginia National Guard is also collecting a prototype to test it for durability and protection capabilities.