Kelsey Crawford, Innovation Hub manager, is one of several Innovation Hub staff members who have committed their time to supporting the local Morgantown community as it grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Statler College Photo/Paige Nesbit)
A partnership is forming between the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Sciences and Design, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University and WVU Medicine to determine how the Innovation Hub, a prototyping center in the Statler College, could assist the medical community as they grapple with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Currently, the Innovation Hub staff are exploring how their equipment, particularly laser cutters and 3D printers, can be used to potentially supplement the shortage of medical supplies needed by health care workers. After several working prototypes are created, they will be assessed to determine whether or not they meet certain medical standards.
“The goal is to see what we can produce quickly and reliably to help the medical community out,” said Gene Cilento, professor of chemical engineering and the Hub’s inaugural director. “We are a prototyping facility, not production. If we are successful, we can coordinate with other labs across campus and beyond to make some of these products.”
At this time, items that are being considered for production are face masks, face shields and surgical mask expanders for comfort.
While the materials produced by the Innovation Hub will not be used directly in the treatment of patients with COVID-19, they will be used in other critical areas of health care operations.
“We hope to have some prototypes to share with our contacts by the end of the week,” Cilento said. “We will provide them data on how many we can produce per week. If they are approved, we will order materials and start production as soon as possible.”
To comply with restrictions set forth by the University and state government to limit the community spread of COVID-19, the Innovation Hub staff have developed a plan to operate the center efficiently in the event that the prototypes are approved and full-scale production can begin.
On Monday (March 23) the Statler College donated gloves, masks and safety glasses to the Monongalia County VA Clinic and Ruby Memorial Hospital that had been purchased previously for lab use and recruiting efforts.
“I don’t think there is an engineer at WVU who doesn’t want to try and contribute to this crisis in a meaningful way,” said Earl Scime, interim dean of the Statler College. “Using our brand-new resources in our not yet opened Innovation Hub, we are hoping to have an immediate impact for our front-line health care workers here in Morgantown. I am very proud of the faculty and staff who are leading this effort.”
CONTACT: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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