Oakton Robotics & Engineering Student at ODU Benjamin Yusman, and Oakton Junior & Robotics Team Build Lead Alexander Yusman, making surgical mask straps.
In a world where the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed healthcare capacity and shut down medical supply chains, students, mentors and alumni members from Oakton High School’s Robotics team decided it was time to do something with the skills they have. They knew they could help with the efforts to supply PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to those medical and front line people in need. The Robotics team joined forces with Nova Labs, a community makerspace, and marshaled their personal 3D printers. The first project was to manufacture adapters for CPAP machines, turning them into ventilators to help patients with COVID-19 breath. This was a specific request that Nova Labs has received from DC Firefighters and EMS workers. They then moved on to the next highest priority project, making surgical mask straps. These straps help healthcare workers by attaching to the elastic on surgical masks, eliminating the pain that has developed on the back of their ears. These are being distributed to hospitals and other care providers around the Washington, D.C. area and as far away as New York, Connecticut, Michigan, and California.
Not every Cougar Robotics team member has access to 3D printers, but they wanted to help. So they took to sewing surgical and N95 mask covers. Many area hospitals and medical organizations reached out requesting these, to help keep surgical and N95 masks clean, so they can be reused. While this is not ideal, with medical supplies being in such high demand and short supply, the medical field is trying their best to prolong the longevity of the supplies they have. Again, not everyone had a sewing machine but still wanted to help with the efforts, so some took to their irons to make straps out of regular fabric, so mask production didn’t come to a halt, with lack of strap material available.
Just like when they build their robots, it takes many people doing their part to be a success. When word got out about the Robotics team’s efforts, others from the Oakton High School community reached out to volunteer their skills. Now it has really become an Oakton HS community effort, with people from the band, lacrosse, wrestling and crew team helping out. In just one week, the team was able to deliver 120 ventilator adapters, 65 N95 mask covers, 65 surgical mask covers, and 127 surgical mask straps. And they're still going strong – 3D printers are now focusing on printing brackets to be used on intubation tents for COVID-19 patients.
It’s a small but mighty effort that is making a difference. The Robotics team is excited to be able to organize these efforts and help out those that need help during this time. They have committed to help Nova labs with the PPE Challenge until there is no more need. If you want to help the efforts, visit https://www.nova-labs.org/ppe-challenge