Meet the APSU student who built a face shield prototype to protect the state’s health care workers
(Posted April 16, 2020)
When Gov. Bill Lee last month asked colleges and universities if they could help make protective equipment for Tennessee’s health care workers, an Austin Peay State University student had a prototype face shield built later the same day.
Within three hours, actually.
Graphic design student Michael Hunter, a worker at APSU’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Center, took the lead on refining and building a 3D-printed prototype shield.
“I had seen a bunch of things (on an open-source Facebook group) for face shields already, so I was like, ‘OK, I already know what we need to be looking for,’” Hunter, who was a drone operator with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before enrolling at APSU, said. “We got the first face shield printed, got it put together, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Within a week, universities and technical colleges across the state were using Hunter’s prototype to produce face shields for medical workers.
Hunter “put it together, and health professionals from the state reviewed it and decided to go with the design,” said Mike Wilson, the center’s director. “That design was sent all over the state to various universities to start printing.”
27,360 disposable face shields shipped to TEMA so far
Austin Peay has led the effort from the beginning, and the GIS Center delivered its first shipment of face shields to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday, March 25, just a few days after Hunter built the prototype.
As of Tuesday, April 14, the GIS Center has shipped 74 boxes containing 2,736 face shield frames and 27,360 disposable face shields to TEMA.
The face shields have three parts: a 3D-printed shield frame, an acetate face shield and an elastic band. Universities and technical colleges across the state are printing the frames and sending them to APSU, where the GIS Center pairs them with the acetate shields and elastic bands for packaging.
GIS Center staff and student workers have been building, testing, cleaning and packaging the shield equipment around the clock.
- APSU science education professor works to educate, ease fears during COVID-19 pandemic
- APSU’s GIS Center hopes to produce 3D-printed respiratory face masks in addition to face shields
- Austin Peay offering one-on-one virtual tours of campus
“I got in there last week, and I made stacks of 10 acetate sheets all day long,” Hunter said. “It’s getting those prepped, all the boxes prepped, making sure everything is sanitized and ready for these medical professionals.”
The work is worth the effort, though.
“It’s rewarding doing something not just for myself but to help out,” he said.
Hunter said most the credit belongs to the GIS Center and its workers.
“The GIS Center plays such a versatile role in these random projects, and it’s not just the center, it’s the people and the wider array of experiences and resources that we have,” Hunter said. “When there’s a hard question or response like this, it’s the GIS Center that answers the call.”
A nose for important work
This isn’t the only time Hunter has stepped up for a notable project.
Last fall, Hunter designed and 3D-printed a tactile map of campus for low-vision and no-vision students.
Disability Services’ Associate Director Lynette Taylor said Hunter taught himself Braille and created his own Braille initialisms.
But Hunter might have learned more than that. He relayed the story of an out-of-state student who recently lost his vision who started classes last fall.
“He’s being put in a new campus, a new state, away from his family,” Hunter said. “It’s going to be, ‘Hey, find your way.’
“I’m able to give him something,” Hunter continued. “The map gives him the ability to live without relying on somebody else. It gives him the ability to be more independent.”
To donate to the GIS Center
To learn more
For more about the GIS Center, visit https://www.apsugis.org/.
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