PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Blue Ridge Unified School District made statewide news last week for its Fab Lab students’ efforts to create protective face shields and ventilators for healthcare workers. Gov. Ducey recognized the district and its partners in an address to the state.
Fab Lab teacher Kevin Woolridge, Steve Gouker, Director of the U of A Cooperative Extension for Navajo County, the Arizona Makers Fighting COVID-19 Working Group, students from the Physics and Engineering Club and local community members are working together on this first-of-its-kind effort.
“The Banner Pulmonology group has authorized our Fab Lab to test a ventilator prototype that supports four patients at once. Therefore, every device will greatly expand each ventilator’s capacity. All this work is done in the Blue Ridge School’s Fab Lab. The work is backed up by research and theory, requiring only application, and testing,” stated Blue Ridge Superintendent Dr. Mike Wright.
Woolridge and his Fab Lab crew have been recognized in the past for some amazing projects, including a winning the NASA rover design project, Gouker said in an email.
Woolridge said about the current projects: “One of our major goals is to produce PPE (personal protective equipment) that can be safely sanitized and reused. With supply material shortcomings and the global demand, raw materials for producing disposable PPE is a thing of the past.”
“We have multiple projects going on from prototyping and making ventilator parts and manufacturing face shields and participating in projects to prototype other PPE. One of the biggest concerns is coming up with an evidence-based process for making N95-equivalent masks. Many of the DIY masks are inappropriate and give the wearer a false sense of security while not protecting them from even the largest of viruses. The face shields that we are making can be washed and sanitized as well has dry-heat sanitized up to 80°C. Recent research indicates that dry heat of 65°C for 30 minutes is effective for killing most if not all virus on materials used for PPE,” said Woolridge.
Most of the team is working remotely, while some go into the Fab Lab at the school and work at the various stations while practicing social distancing. Up to 75 face shields can be made in about two hours.
“Our goal is to continue to work as long as we have the materials to do it and as long as there is a problem that we can help with. COVID-19 is not just a medical problem, it’s a community problem and as a community we need to come together to help solve it.”
“The Blue Ridge District and doctors from Whiteriver Indian Hospital donated the first batch of supplies, but we will be relying on community donations to keep going,” stated Gouker in an email.