D.I.G. Team Produces Face Shields for Dallas Health Care Professionals

Inside the Deason Innovation Gym, or D.I.G., is a makerspace full of state of the art technology including 3-D printers, laser cutters, electronics, and virtual reality.

Before SMU transitioned to online courses, the makerspace was open to all students and faculty who were eager to create and experiment with projects.

“Anything that you can imagine, that you want to build, a makerspace is a place for that to happen,” said Lyle School of Engineering Professor Seth Orsborn.

But as COVID-19 reached the shores of the U.S., Orsborn began to envision it as a place to make a difference in his community, especially since he felt that COVID-19 would reach Dallas eventually.

He thought, “if we can produce these [face shields] in advance, then maybe we can eliminate the impact that the disease has when it reaches us.”

Amid growing concern over a shortage of personal protective equipment, the makerspace is reorienting to produce face shields for local health care professionals. A team from SMU is creating reusable plastic face shields with the 3-D printers and laser cutters available at the D.I.G.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_N-D0fpIbd/For those on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, face shields are crucial because they prevent water particles released by sneezes and coughs from reaching the physician’s face.

Orsborn said that the decision to make P.P.E. came after realizing that few local facilities have the machines required to help.

“There’s only about six spaces in the DFW area that can make these. So, it was really important for us to step up. And that was really our motivation,” Orsborn said. “There’s an opportunity, not everybody can do, [but] we can do it. Why would we sit back and not help?”

At first, it was only Orsborn and Alyssa Phillips, the Deason Innovation Gym manager, working on the face shields. When they received several requests from health care organizations asking for more P.P.E., they realized they were short-staffed.

“We were kind of limited by our machines and our personnel to about a hundred face shields a week,” Orsborn said.

Now, with special permission from SMU, four seniors – who are Deason Innovation Gym staff members with previous experience – are working separately until the end of the semester to help make face masks for a few hours a week.

“It’s great to have our students who are actually helping out in the midst of trying to finish up their senior year,” Orsborn said.

So far, the team has made over 1000 face shields for local physicians. They donate the P.P.E. to U.T. Southwestern, Brookdale Hospice, and Watermark Urgent Care, who cares for people that may be uninsured. Additionally, Children’s Health will take any extra face shields produced.

When they give the face shields to “local healthcare workers, hospitals, and clinics, they seem to really appreciate it,” Phillips said.

Even though Phillips admits that the shifts at the D.I.G. can be long, she believes it’s worth it because in a global pandemic, “even if it’s a small difference,” it counts.

To keep up with updates from the D.I.G., check out its Instagram page.