Medical Supplies

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As the number of COVID-19 patients grew and put a strain on California's medical infrastructure, faculty and students sprang into action to design and produce some of the supplies health facilities needed.

A team from Humboldt State University's Department of Biological Sciences assembled 1,500 COVID-19 test kits (shown above) at the request of the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory. Created following clinically approved protocols, the kits were distributed to the Laboratory, HSU Student Health and the Karuk Tribe.

​​“Where we live in California, it’s such a remote place that it is challenging for our communities to have access to the resources required to protect and treat the public in an emergency medical situation,” says Amy Sprowles, Ph.D., HSU Biological Sciences chairperson. “Faculty and staff were eager to volunteer to help our healthcare professionals keep our community safe.”

Several campuses responded to a request from the Department of Defense (DoD) in March asking for ventilator designs for medical facilities facing a shortage of these machines.

San Diego State University Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kevin Wood, Ph.D., mobilized graduate students Jack Lucas and Tyler Lestak to design a low-cost ventilator that can be easily assembled using readily available parts. The result was an emergency ventilation device that costs less than $400 to produce and plugs into a standard power outlet. Their first design featured a mechanical arm that pushed down on a CPR bag filled with compressed air, but their updated design​ relies on electrically controlled valves, has three different modes of ventilation and connects directly to an existing supply of compressed air, making it much more versatile.

Dr. Kevin Wood’s team at SDSU working on their ventilator.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Cameron Wong working on his ventilator design.

“The benefit of our system is that we don't have to machine anything; they're all available parts,” says Dr. Wood, who also leads the Interface Design Lab​. “We can take these parts that we can buy from different companies and just assemble them together.”

He hopes the FDA will quickly approve their design so it can be distributed to healthcare facilities, but the team is also working with officials in Mexico to provide emergency ventilators for facilities there​.

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo students Cameron Wong and Ryan Lee, guided by Engineering Professor Eric Paton, also designed a ventilation system in response to the DoD request. The goal for the design was to create a ventilator using consumer products that could be operated by someone without a technical background, explains Wong.

“Because the coronavirus has already taken so many lives, is leaving people hospitalized and is affecting people around the globe, we definitely feel this project is something we need to work on quickly and with a sense of urgency,” Wong says.

While the DoD did not accept their design, they hope to get feedback on their work from other experts and help teams working on ventilators that are closer to production, Lee explains.