NATCHITOCHES – Science and engineering technology students and faculty at Northwestern State University are lending their expertise to help healthcare providers and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anna Dugas, an assistant professor of physics, created a COVID-19 face shield and requested permission to use university’s Lutzbot Taz 6 3-D FDM printer to print 28 face shields, and more as needed, to donate to Natchitoches Regional Medical Center. Dugas, a biomedical engineer, has designed medical equipment in the past and intends to recruit others in the NSU community to expand production of the masks.
Since joining the faculty at NSU four years ago, Dugas established the Biological & Electrical Applied Physics (BEAP) lab in the School of Biological & Physical Sciences where she works with science and engineering technology students to explore sensor-human interfaces, robotic applications and space/atmosphere-exploration payload design.
“While at home with my two small boys (three and eight years old), I wanted to do a project with them that could help people, and to show them that we can all make a difference, even at home,” Dugas said.
Dr. Francene Lemoine, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, collected the three dozen shields Dugas made and delivered them to Natchitoches Regional Medical Center April 30. Dugas hopes to make more in the upcoming weeks and make them available to any clinic in Natchitoches with a need.
Meanwhile, students in the biomedical instrumentation course, part of the engineering technology curriculum, were assigned projects related to understanding ventilators and asked to propose designs to accommodate more patients.
Maleik White of St. Martinville, who was also an intern at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, is working with biomedical staff to better understand the ventilator and possible modification.
“Biomedical concentration graduates are prepared to excel in the expanding medical technology field that explores the interface between man and machines used in healthcare facilities,” said Dr. Jafar Al Sharab said, head of NSU’s Department of Engineering Technology.
Students were also challenged to design and fabricate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face shields. Dr. Shahriar Hossain, a new professor in industrial engineering technology, utilized his expertise in technical drafting to design a face shield that takes 70 percent time less to 3D print than other PPEs.
Two students, Daniela Forero Saldeco and Devin Reyes, utilized software skills to design gaming experiences designed to educate users about the coronavirus and encourage them to use PPEs. The games are intended to provide useful information and alleviate stress for remote learners who have plenty of spare time.
“We tried to encourage ET faculty and students to help with this crisis, each one according to his or her capacity,” Al Sharab said. “All the information is available for free for anyone who is willing utilize them and benefit from them at https://engrtech.nsula.edu. We are planning to make this on-line depository location where other relevant 3D models can be shared. We encourage other faculty members and staff to contact me if they have any relevant design to be shared.
“These are simple examples from ET department, however, it shows that both students and faculty care and try to help with this global issue each one according to his/her capacity and within their area of expertise,” Al Sharab added.
“We appreciate our faculty so very much for this incredible outreach. I continue to be amazed at the work of our faculty. This is yet another example of NSU’s great partnership and collaboration of our community,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio.
Anyone who would like to make a contribution towards purchasing materials and printers to make more face shields can do so through the NSU Foundation by visiting http://northwesternalumni.com/donations/biology/.