Chris Paxman, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
A partnership between the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, 4-H and the Blue Ridge Unified School District in Navajo County are now making personal protective equipment and prototypes of new parts for ventilators, the university announced this week.
The 4-H and Blue Ridge district operate a fabrication laboratory, or Fab Lab, located in Pinetop. The facility is an “open door open-source educational resource” that includes several classrooms designed for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) work. The Fab Lab is home to a collection of digital fabrication equipment and electronics platforms.
Kevin Woolridge, a science and math teacher at Blue Ridge High School who opened the lab in 2018, began working with Navajo County Extension Director Steve Gouker and two students this week to begin producing face shields.
The group hopes to create 300 face shields by the weekend and will donate what they make to the Whiteriver Indian Hospital on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.
"I'm ecstatic to help," Woolridge said, in a statement. "We are all forced to be at home, social distancing right now. It's helping to focus our energies, and to do something like this – actually making a difference to help keep our health professionals and first responders safe – we're very excited to do this."
In addition to the face shields, Woolridge and his team are also producing an H-tube, a ventilator part that would allow one ventilator to be used on four patients in an emergency situation.
"There is not an acute need for an H-connector right now, but we started the conversation because everybody in the U.S. will be hit by a shortage assuming the current state of affairs and the supply chain disruptions continue. There just aren't enough ventilators," said Bijun Kannadath, a research assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the College of Medicine-Phoenix. "We are doing in vitro testing to investigate the potential usage and see if it's a feasible alternative, but hopefully we don't need it. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it."