09:54 AM

UST Springs Into Action to Make Protective Face Masks for Common Good

prototype of N-95 face maskMarshaling its faculty and administrators' talents for the common good, University of St. Thomas is taking up the charge to produce N-95 face masks either for medical settings or community welfare.

Championing the charge is Spencer Conroy, UST’s Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs, who has family members in emergency medicine. This impetus gave Conroy a zeal for helping others protect themselves.

Biology Professors Utilize 3D Printers for Face Mask Production

In the meantime and unbeknownst to Conroy, UST’s Biology Professors Rosie Rosell and Shivas Amin, along with Engineering Professor Matthew Zelisko, were hatching a plan to use the University's 3D printers to produce face shields. Rosell found the instructions on how to make face shields and passed it to Amin who already started sourcing materials and working with his colleagues to mock up a prototype for evaluation.

Colliding Minds,Talents and Hearts

Creative discussions between UST’s Chief Innovation Officer, Beena George, and other administrators on how to help the community connected them to Amin. The plan to produce N-95 face masks was hatched because plastic for the face shields took too long to source.

Now the plans to produce N-95 masks seem to have garnered steam. Other campus departments started donating their 3D printers and now Amin is up to 4. 

Conroy Gathers Resources to Finish the Prototype N-95 Mask

Not one to waste time, Conroy investigated how to collect the additional materials to make the N-95 masks for either the hospitals or the community.

With the help of Amin, who utilized the 3D printer and produced pieces of the N-95 prototype mask, Conroy put in the filter and attached the headband.

“Shivas printed the skeleton of the car, and I’m putting in the seats,” Conroy said.

“Time is of the essence,” Conroy said. “I have a call with Harris Health System and Baylor to discuss the masks. I am sending over a mask for their review. If it doesn’t work for the hospitals, we will give them to our community so they don’t buy up the supplies needed for the hospital.”

And then the light came on

While waiting for Conroy, they came up with a second idea for how UST could best contribute to saving lives in the community.

“We are on the cusp of our society accepting masks as an everyday safety standard (at least for a few months),” Amin said. “We want to start making masks for the UST community and making online video tools to show people how to create custom masks for their families. We can use this as a gateway to promote mask usage and social distancing strategies. The idea would be to educate the community, which is where our true strengths lie. Our ability to educate the community and provide reliable information is where we can shine,” Amin said.