LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) — In a time of uncertainty, students and staff at Red Rocks Community College are helping to find innovative ways to address the shortage of medical equipment across the state. They are part of a newly formed task force called Make4Covid, which includes doctors, hospitals, Colorado universities and engineers to create 3D ventilator parts.

(credit: make4covid.com)

The effort began two weeks ago, when an area doctor reached out to engineering departments at a handful of Colorado schools via email.

“I was really banging my head and really wanted to do something,” explained Dr. Karstan Bartels. “I just put in the line ‘ICU doctor at Anschutz needs your help.’”

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Seeing what other fellow colleagues are facing in Italy and Seattle, Dr. Bartels wanted to look for ways to prepare for a possible shortage of medical equipment in Colorado. Immediately, students with the Idea Lab at Red Rocks Community College responded to the plea, and began creating medical parts, such as a shared ventilator prototype with a 3D printer.

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“We started rapid prototyping designs in our homes,” explained Jeremy Beard, part of the engineering faculty at RRCC. “Hospitals we’ve talked to say they could run low on ventilators.”

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With the help and advice of medical professionals, the team narrowed down their designs to two prototypes to test in a local hospital on Thursday.

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“The doctors said it was a success,” Beard explained. “There are still some things we need to work out. Today we demonstrated that we can maintain flow control, with two different complying lungs.”

The team will continue looking into the design and research of the shared ventilator prototype.

“We’re trying to find an equation or a graph we can use to determine pressure versus flow rate based on what the machine is giving out,” Beard said.

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The device is not medically approved, and won’t necessarily be used. But Beard said they are working with a local company to look into regulations to see if the equipment could one day be considered ‘medical grade’ and used if needed.

Dr. Bartels said there is still a lot of research to be done, but in his opinion, looking for innovative solutions to potential problems now, is huge.

“I want to be over prepared. There’s been too much under-preparing,” Dr. Bartels said. “So if were in a scenario where we have to do things that we never thought would be possible, I just want to be prepared.”

The members of Make4Covid are also working on creating masks, due to a shortage in healthcare.

For more information or to donate supplies to you can visit: https://www.rrcc.edu/medequip4covid

 

Makenzie O'Keefe

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