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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A campus resource known for its limitless potential is now home to a flurry of activity in the fight against COVID-19.
The I-Create Lab, a hands-on, multipurpose makerspace in the Mary and Jeff Bell Library where users invent, collaborate, design, and create, is utilizing its laser cutting technology to make disposable face shields for health care professionals. The shields, which will be provided by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to Driscoll Children’s Hospital at no cost, are in high demand around the country and are unavailable or available in low numbers from traditional suppliers.
“When this need came to our attention, the Bell Library team and the entire University administration sprang into action without hesitation,” Dr. Cate Rudowsky, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Dean of Libraries, said. “It was a multi-step process that happened at lightning speed, thanks in large part to Ms. Sylvia Sanchez and Mr. David Jones who run the I-Create Lab. We found an approved face shield design, sourced the necessary materials, obtained the needed approvals, and did test runs. There was not a moment of hesitation.”
The shields will address the increased usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, a world-class pediatric care center offering care throughout South Texas. The masks, although not FDA-approved, will be crafted using every reasonable effort to follow FDA standards.
“Face shields are an everyday component of a health care worker’s PPE that should be worn anytime they provide care where there is potential for splash or spray from potentially infectious material,” said Julie Pina, Chief Nursing Officer at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. “A face shield can also help to prolong the use of a face mask by preventing the outside of the mask from also getting contaminated, thus allowing the health care worker to wear the mask for an extended period or to even reuse it if necessary.”
The possibility of the project came to the attention of the I-Create team by Kristy Aleman, a student in the Island University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program who is the current Texas Nurse Practitioner Policy Fellow. In that role, she works closely with different health care organizations in the Coastal Bend, one of which is Driscoll Children’s Hospital.
“It’s exciting to see this happening so quickly and to see A&M-Corpus Christi working diligently to get our health care providers much needed PPE,” Aleman said. She earned her first master’s degree from A&M-Corpus Christi and her second master’s degree from the Texas Tech University Health Science Center.
The masks will be made from Mylar, clear polycarbonate and/or plexiglass, and adhesive foam/weather stripping, according to instructions available on the Georgia Institute of Technology’s website.
It will take a maximum of four I-Create team members to assemble and pack the shields, and all those involved will follow strict social distancing rules and will make efforts to minimize the number of times each shield is touched.
The goal of the project, which began the week of April 6, is to create approximately 1,000 kits, consisting of a head visor and 30 disposal shields, by the end of April 2020. Each health professional issued a kit will have one reusable visor and a 30-day supply of disposable shields.
“Any face shields that we may have in excess will be shared with our colleagues in our local community,” said Pina. “We consider TAMU-CC a valued community partner of ours, supporting us in our time of need. Working with our local community partners builds stronger relationships and provides us a sense of security that we can depend on each other when there is a need.”
Rudowsky commented that the project is a prime example of the infinite ability of makerspace communities to solve real-world problems in real-time.
“TAMU-CC is proud to contribute in the fight against COVID-19,” Rudowsky said. “We couldn’t be prouder to be Islanders.”