UW Students Producing PPE For State Medical Facilities

A number of University of Wyoming students have been diligently working in the Student Innovation Center, producing personal protective equipment for medical facilities and first responders across the state.

Ellen Fike

May 12, 20204 min read

PPE maker

For the last two months, a group of University of Wyoming students have been diligently working in the school’s 3D “makerspace” in the Student Innovation Center to produce personal protective equipment for medical facilities and first responders across the state.

The team has produced more than 3,700 pieces of equipment, mainly protective masks and face shields, that have gone to nearly 40 medical facilities in the state, including the Wind River Indian Reservation, and to law enforcement agencies and fire department personnel at no cost.

The state’s Office of Homeland Security has also asked for the team to make PPE for its employees.

“We have not stopped printing since March 27, when we did our first overnight push to get out masks for Cheyenne Regional Medical Center,” Tyler Kerr, the SIC makerspace coordinator, said in a news release. “That means most of our 3D printers have been running all day and night for more than 40 days now. We have produced roughly 90 pieces of PPE a day. If ever there was an endorsement for excellent workhorse 3D printers, this would be it.”

A “makerspace” is a collaborative work space inside a common area such as a school or library where equipment is made available for use by members of the public.

The UW students staff begin printing from the university’s 3D printers in the Student Innovation Center around 8 a.m. daily, and the first set of equipment is usually finished around 12 hours later. Another team comes in during the evening to remove the prints and start a slightly longer printing run that ends just before sunrise.

A database showing where equipment has been shipped and those contributing to the efforts can be found here.

“We have shipped masks, face shields and custom-made 3D printed or laser-cut parts to all corners of Wyoming,” Kerr said. “Each of the facilities that have requested our services has received PPE, which means we’ve catered not only to medical facilities now, but also emergency responders, such as fire and police departments, as well as emergency management centers.”

Since some smaller facilities, like nursing homes, don’t have easy access to PPE from the federal stockpiles, the SIC makerspace team is assisting with this.

The Wyoming dental community is starting to work with the UW team, as well. Kerr noted that Laramie River Dental’s Dr. Ilene Choal has been talking about the project with the greater Wyoming Dental Association.

The team is producing a face shield specifically for loupes (small magnification devices that dentists wear over their safety glasses) worn by dentists outside of their PPE.

“We have worked through different ideas and prototypes until the WyDA settled on a final design,” Kerr said. “Because the loupes extend out from the eyewear and face by about two inches, dentists need a special-sized face shield.”

He credited the makerspace’s success in helping these facilities to his student-led team. The team includes Cheyenne native Ben Monger, an energy systems engineering major, Green River native Victoria Evans, a pre-pharmacy major, Riverton native Shannon Linch, a chemical engineering major, and Torrington native Brayton Tolman, a mechanical engineering major.

“The student staff are pretty incredible,” Kerr said. “Ask me what I was doing at their age, and it certainly was not 3D printing thousands of critical personal protective equipment for front-line responders. And on top of taking a full course load, no less.”

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Ellen Fike