A collaborative effort between faculty members at the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI), College of Engineering (CoE), College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) and School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems (Biomed) to generate 3D printed face shields recently hit a milestone of 30,500 donations to more than 100 area hospitals, rehabilitation and nursing facilities, EMS and law enforcement, educational institutions, clinical practices and nonprofit organizations battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project, known as “AJFlex Face Shields,” began in early March when CoE Professor Michele Marcolongo, PhD received a request for help from the chair of Einstein Hospital’s emergency room about their critical shortage of face shields. Within less than a week, Marcolongo recruited Biomed Associate Professor Amy Throckmorton, PhD, CCI/CNHP Professor Ellen Bass, PhD, and biomedical engineering graduate student Bryan Ferrick to develop a 3D-printed headband with a clear shield and foam padding.
With the springtime surge of COVID-19 patients came an increasing need for personal protective equipment (PPE), and the AJFlex Face Shields team soon found themselves inundated with requests from hospitals.
Bass, who has a co-appointment with CNHP as well as decades of human-centered systems engineering research and design experience in healthcare, took the lead on the project’s information technology needs. “Drexel CNHP has placed a lot of nurses and health professionals in the Philly region so when you hear Philly region doesn’t have proper PPE, those are some of our alumni, so this is a very personal project for me,” Bass said.
With the help of CCI professional staff members Joe Adair, Brian Bijeau, Kristen Glaser, John McNamara and John Sinclair, the AJFlex Face Shields project soon had a responsive and informative website to help field requests, gather donations and generate awareness.
The project, which received its initial funding from Drexel’s Rapid Response Research & Development Fund, primarily relies on material and monetary donations from the community to fuel the effort to supply face shields to area hospitals.
The team primarily runs its (socially distant) printing operations and assembly in CoE’s Innovation Studio at Drexel, conveniently co-located with Drexel’s Machine Shop.
“We are continuing to build and donate shields in response to the ongoing resurgence,” said Throckmorton. “More will be distributed to local homeless shelters in the weeks to come.”
The project is accepting donations to help support the supply of plastic, elastic and foam, as well as volunteers for delivery and 3D printing. Thanks to CCI Technology Services Manager Mike Galloway, the website provides instructions for volunteers who are able to 3D print supportive headbands for the face shields.
“Those of us at Drexel who are still working, we are the privileged. I feel we have a moral imperative to help with this crisis,” Bass said. “I can look myself in the mirror and say I helped people, including our Drexel Dragons, who are on the front lines. This is a positive way to do something with all this energy.”