TCAT Murfreesboro and MTSU are partnering with other colleges to produce 3D-printed supplies to protect health care workers treating COVID-19 coronavirus patients.

Gov. Bill Lee first mentioned the initiative during a press conference Monday afternoon.

Using 3D printers, Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Elizabethton, Jackson, Morristown, Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, and Jackson State and Pellissippi State community colleges manufactured 858 headbands from Saturday through Monday afternoon, the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) said in a press release. These will be used for plastic face shields. Other campuses are supplying 3D printers, materials and supplies for the ongoing effort.

Dr. Carol Puryear, TBR vice chancellor for economic and community development and interim president of TCAT Murfreesboro, is leading the system’s effort.

“We sent the pattern to our campuses on Friday and faculty started producing the headbands Saturday,” Puryear said. “Faculty members worked through the weekend and we have made more than 850 as of this afternoon. I cannot say enough about the dedication and hard work of our faculty involved in this effort. They’re working virtually around the clock.”

TCAT is donating personal protective equipment (PPEs) to the Tennessee Department of Health, Puryear said. TCAT produced more than 233 head bands since Saturday, and counting.

MTSU

Middle Tennessee State University is joining in.

Makerspace, a section of MTSU’s James E. Walker Library, houses equipment to help students complete projects for classes.

Valerie Hackworth, the library’s assistant manager for technology services, and senior library technology specialist Charles Donley are making headbands that attach to medical face shields to donate to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

MTSU said the initial request is for a run of 1,500 headbands, but Makerspace can continue printing them as long as there is a need. The Sculpting Lab in the Department of Art and Design is also responding to state requests to produce needed materials via 3D printers.

“This is a time when we all must pitch in to get through this crisis together, and MTSU is blessed to have the available resources to help in this way,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said.

State colleges pull together

Lee announced the 3D initiative Monday, the same day he said he signed Executive Order 18 prohibiting hospitals and outpatient surgery centers from performing elective procedures and dental clinics from doing non-emergency work. The prohibition is planned to expire April 13. He is asking these providers to donate personal protective equipment (PPEs) to the Tennessee Army National Guard to provide to hospitals.

After only three days of intensive efforts that included community and business partners, the overall effort has produced more than 1,500 critically needed pieces of PPEs for health care professionals, the TBR said. The work will continue.

The headbands are being sent to Austin Peay State University, which the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) says originated the prototype and where the headbands will be attached to transparent plastic face shields, according to the TBR. THEC says the first batch of assembled face shields were expected to be delivered Wednesday to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency for distribution to health care facilities. Health professionals wear face shields over masks as further protection from infectious diseases while working with patients.

Other participating institutions include East Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University, the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Tennessee’s 27 TCATs and 13 community colleges say they are also providing other protective gear, including protective suits used in certain health and other technical fields.

The TCAT Murfreesboro team includes Nick Albers, I.T. administrator and Information Technology and Infrastructure Management instructor. Albers and Puryear are on the 3D printing team with TBR Chancellor Flora Tydings, which is coordinated by the Tennessee Higher Education Committee, led by Mike Krause, executive director.

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