Red Rocks Community College’s IDEA Lab Answers a Call for Help During COVID 19
In these uncertain times, the students, alumni, and staff in the IDEA Lab at Red Rocks Community College are providing their expertise to address the shortage of medical equipment and parts in urgent need in our community. On Thursday, March 19, an email was sent by a CU Anschutz doctor with a plea for help and an idea to use 3D printers to make a shared ventilator connection. This plea has turned in to a full-blown effort as the newly formed taskforce, Make4Covid, including doctors, hospitals, medical businesses, engineers, other Colorado universities, members of the general public, and our IDEA Lab are now sharing ideas and finding solutions to create 3D ventilator parts and face masks. IDEA Lab staff Jeremy Beard, Lead Academic and Tyler LeClear, Manager, are spearheading the Red Rocks Community College efforts along with alumni Shelby Ryan as well as countless other students and alumni that are so glad to be working on this timely and life-saving project.
The email that acted as a catalyst to form a new and innovative team was a call to action to which many individuals and organizations have responded. Dr. Karsten Bartels, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, wrote, “I am an intensive care physician at CU Anschutz (Medical Campus). With Coronavirus I am seeking methods to share one ventilator between two or more patients. This has been done in Europe based on a conference call I had yesterday using 3D printed connectors. Can you help us or do you know who could?” This put in motion an intense timeline of events over the past few days for the IDEA Lab. By the end of Thursday, a Zoom meeting brought together a group of people and Make4Covid was created. The very next day, on Friday, March 20, supplies were gathered and the staff and students got to work. Overnight, a blueprint was created. Over the rest of the weekend, a prototype was made and on Monday, March 23, the prototype was being evaluated by doctors, including Dr. Will Fry, General and Trauma Surgeon at the Good Samaritan Medical Center. Dr. Fry has provided valuable feedback to the team.
In the meantime, the medical campus has gone on to ask for help on another project, the making of masks, or as the medical professionals refer to them, personal protection equipment (PPE). This new project brought in more IDEA Lab students that worked in teams each focusing on different aspects of the PPE as well as the Theater department. According to Jeremy Beard, “We are working on an injection molded reusable face mask that uses HEPA filters from indoor air purifiers. The HEPA filter fabric is being designed to be replaceable and can be removed when the face mask needs to be cleaned. Our Theater department is working with us to incorporate various fabrics into our design where the face mask touches the users face.” Both projects brought in an industry partner, 3D Printing Store in Englewood and the CEO, Debra Wilcox. With Ms. Wilcox’s guidance, the ventilator project is taking off with high-quality 3D printed prototypes. And while the IDEA Lab’s face mask design is not moving forward, more industry partnerships are. IDEA Lab students are also working with Respirogen and CPS Polymers to finalize their prototypes in collaboration with our multi-institutional partnership with CU Denver, Anschutz, and Boulder with the goal of being ready for testing in our medical community in the near future.
About the IDEA Lab: Red Rocks Community College supports students in gaining hands-on experiences and developing real-world skills in design, making, technology and engineering, and innovation through use of the IDEA Lab. The IDEA Lab includes the 3D Print Room, CyberLab, Build Space with laser cutter, CNC mill, wood-working tools, soldering stations, electronics and room for designing and collaborating. The IDEA Lab is participatory in that its success relies on student involvement and is peer-supported in an environment where students help each other out. Membership is free but required through an online application at “Become a Member: at https://www.rrcc.edu/idea-lab.
About Make4Covid: Make4Covid is a community of makers, designers, and healthcare professionals working together to support the urgent needs of healthcare workers and first responders during this time of crisis. Members include higher education (CU Denver, CU Anschutz Medical Campus, CU Boulder, Red Rocks Community College), industry (Respirogen, Plasticare, Prospect Life Sciences), medical professionals (UC Health, CU Anschutz Medical Campus), individual makers and more. Anyone who would like to help this community is invited to join at make4covid.co. Donations are also accepted through Make4Covid in lieu of reaching out to specific hospitals directly.
More about Red Rocks Community College: Established in 1969, Red Rocks Community College delivers high-quality, affordable education programs leading to degrees or professional certificates. The college serves over 13,000 students per year online and at campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada. www.rrcc.edu.