Local Robotics Team Creates PPE for Medical Professionals
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Texas Torque, the award-winning high school robotics team based out of The Woodlands College Park High School, is using its tools and talents to design and create face shields and other requested items for medical professionals in need of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The team is part of a group of robotics teams in Texas that have come together to support the local community in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. The group consist of 1477 Texas Torque, FRC team 118 Robonauts, 148 Robowranglers, FTC 12857 Phantom, and FLL 2391 Knights of the LEGO Table, several VEX teams, VEX Robotics HQ, and more.
On March 20th, a pediatrician located in Conroe approached Texas Torque for help out of concern about the lack of access to PPE for herself, staff, and colleagues.
The team started with a 3D printed design similar to the Prusa version as well one that can be stamped or die cut for rapid manufacturing. After a few days of minor modifications, they were able to prototype the first few dozen and get them in the hands of local doctors. After several rounds of prototyping and testing with medical professionals, two successful designs that minimize time and materials were finalized.
“It is rewarding to be able to help all the healthcare providers when they are being asked to risk their lives every day and so many need more protective gear,” said Scott Rippetoe, Lead Mentor of Texas Torque.
Over 100 of the 3D printed versions have been distributed in the past week and Rippetoe expects to give out at least another 50 by next Monday.
The face shield design has a clear plastic shield that extends an inch or two in front of the user’s nose, leaving enough room to wear a surgical mask or N95 mask underneath thus protecting the integrity of those masks and giving an extra shield against contamination.
Face shields provide increased protection for staff forced to re-use masks or use home-made masks or bandanas. Since face shields are plastic and can be sanitized, they offer reusable protection for weeks, instead of hours.
The staff at Neighborhood Pediatrics in Shenandoah are one example of the collaborative efforts of the robotics teams. The face shields were designed by Team 148 Robowranglers of Greenville, Texas, cut by Team 118 Robonauts of League City, Texas using a waterjet, then driven to Shenandoah to provide PPE for the pediatrics team.
Texas Torque is currently working with engineers at Igloo in Katy to get the Robonauts’ and Robowranglers’ designs die cut by the thousands or molds made for the 3D printed part of Texas Torque’s version.
The creation of PPE is not without cost. The greatest need is monetary donations and another roll of 0.030 or 0.020 inch thick PETG or PC plastic. Ten dollars goes towards the production of 2 face shields that are reusable and can protect two frontline workers throughout the crisis. All shields are made and then donated directly to local hospitals and first responders.
Monetary donations will be used to purchase filament and plastic sheets to make face shields. To donate, please visit gofundme.com/f/first-teams-for-ppe-face-shields?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet.
In addition to face shields, Texas Torque continues to look for ways to help the local medical community.
The team is currently designing an intubation box and already has a request to make eight.
Texas Torque also posted a design for a bias tape guide to help people make straps for surgical masks. Many people have downloaded the design and over 100 have been shipped around the country.
All the teams involved have been careful to make sure the medical professionals are adequately protected. Their designs follows the standards outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Face Masks.”
To learn more about Texas Torque, please visit www.texastorque.org.
Sources: Scott Rippetoe, Texas Torque website, Texas Torque GoFundMe page